There are at least 10 types of E-scooter malfunctions. Each one of these can cause serious injuries that lead to an E-scooter lawsuit.
E-scooter sharing companies Bird and Lime are aware of these design defects. However, they have been slow to correct them. The delay has put thousands of E-scooter riders at unnecessary risk.
1. The brakes can activate suddenly
One of the most severe malfunctions on shared E-scooters has been a tendency for the vehicle to brake suddenly and without warning.
Lime had to recall thousands of its E-scooters for this problem. The company called the defect a “bug.” They claimed that it only happened when the E-scooter was going full speed, downhill. Lime urged riders to use “extreme caution” and to test the brakes before setting off for a ride.1
2. The brakes can fail to slow down the E-scooter enough
The brakes on shared E-scooters are often unable to bring the vehicle to a safe stop. Especially when being ridden downhill, many models of E-scooters take too long to slow down.
One study found that the front brake on one E-scooter model could not stop while descending a hill with a 17% slope.2 Riders who need to slow down or stop to avoid hitting something can be unable to do so.
3. The E-scooter can shut down in the middle of a ride
E-scooters can shut off in the middle of a ride without warning. This can happen if the scooter runs out of battery power. It can also happen if you take the E-scooter over a geo-fence.
Geo-fences are electrical boundaries. Lime and Bird draw them on maps to control where people take their E-scooters. If you cross one of these boundaries, it triggers a computer program on the vehicle. This turns the E-scooter off.3
This poses a risk to whoever is on the E-scooter. The vehicle can shut off without warning. The sudden lack of power can make you lose control.
4. The deck can break
The deck of an E-scooter is the platform that riders stand on. It is one of the parts of the vehicle that takes the most stress, especially on rough roads.
Early versions of shared E-scooters were made out of weak consumer parts, rather than parts that could withstand commercial use. This meant that the decks were prone to breaking. If this happened, it was very difficult for the rider to keep control of the E-scooter.
5. The handlebars can come off
Another E-scooter malfunction caused by cheap consumer parts is the tendency for the handlebars to come off. Riders grip the handlebars during their trip. The handlebars are also where the throttle and brakes are located. Precisely because riders grip the handlebars so much, they are prone to breaking. If they detach during a ride, it can make the rider lose control.
6. Loose handlebars can make you lose control
Even if the handlebars do not detach entirely, loose handlebars can make you lose control of an E-scooter. The handlebars are where the throttle and brakes are located, so loose handlebars can mean these controls have been compromised. When the handlebars are loose, it can also make it more difficult to turn and keep your balance.
7. The post can break or detach
The post is the pole that connects the handlebars to the E-scooter's deck. Riders lean on it for support. Because the post is so tall, it has to be reinforced or it will break or detach. However, it is also made from parts that were designed for consumer use, not dozens of rides per day. If the post breaks during your ride, you will probably fall off and get hurt.
8. The throttle can stick and cause unwanted acceleration
The throttle is likely the most delicate instrument on an E-scooter. Because it is made from cheap plastic parts, and because dozens of other riders use it every day, it can start to stick. This can make it difficult to get the amount of acceleration you want. Keeping your balance when you expect it to slowly build speed and it happens suddenly can make you lose control.
9. The front wheel rotates to a right angle
E-scooters can also malfunction because the front wheel can turn 90 degrees. This means it can point directly to the side. If this happens during a ride, it will likely cause you to fly over the handlebars.
This is not a rare thing to happen. The small wheels on E-scooters make them vulnerable to uneven pavement like sidewalks, or even small rocks. These obstacles can strike a glancing blow to the wheels, causing the front one to turn sideways. Because there is nothing preventing this from happening, it can force you to lose control.
10. The batteries can catch fire
Most E-scooters use lithium ion batteries. These batters can overheat and catch fire if not charged or treated properly. If this malfunction happens during your ride, it can make you crash.
Lime once had to recall thousands of its E-scooters over this problem. It claimed that it was a manufacturing defect, though battery experts have said that standard wear-and-tear of shared scooters could cause the problems.4
Peter Holley, “Lime scooter riders are being injured by ‘sudden excessive braking,' company says,” The Washington Post (February 25, 2019).
See Madeleine Pauker, “Brake complaints accelerate for e-scooters,” Santa Monica Daily Press (February 27, 2019).
See, e.g., Sonja Sharp, “Did your rented e-scooter suddenly shut down? Blame the invisible geofence,” Los Angeles Times (September 17, 2019), and Lynda Lopez, “Geofencing Will Stop Scooters If Users Leave the Pilot Zone,” Streetsblog Chicago (May 15, 2019).
Peter Holley, “Electric scooter giant Lime says it recalled scooters amid fears that some could catch on fire,” The Washington Post (October 30, 2018).