Bird scooter accident lawsuits are personal injury claims that stem from a crash involving one of Bird’s electric scooters, or E-scooters. The lawsuits claim that Bird or someone else was negligent and caused the E-scooter accident. Because Bird’s E-scooters are used for ridesharing, there are many unique aspects to these lawsuits. The goal, though, is to recover compensation for the victim’s:
- Medical expenses,
- Lost wages and other professional setbacks,
- Reduced earning capacity, and
- Pain and suffering.
At Shouse Law Office, our California scooter accident lawyers represent people who have been hurt while using a Bird E-scooter. We also bring Lime scooter accident lawsuits. In this article, we discuss:
- 1. What is the Bird’s E-scooter sharing program?
- 2. What are types of E-scooter accidents?
- 3. What are common injuries?
- 4. What compensation is available to E-scooter victims?
- 5. How can Bird’s user agreement impact a lawsuit?
1. What is the Bird’s E-scooter sharing program?
Bird is a company that provides shared electric scooters in urban areas. These E-scooters can be rented on a flat fee plus a per-minute rate through Bird’s smartphone app.
The similarities between Bird and ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber are not a mistake: Bird was founded by Travis VanderZanden, a former executive at both of these major ridesharing companies.
Since the company’s startup in September 2017, Bird has entered more than 100 cities in the U.S. and Europe. These include the following cities and universities in California:
- Culver City,
- Long Beach,
- Los Angeles,
- San Diego,
- San Diego State University,
- San Francisco,
- San Jose,
- Santa Monica, and
When Bird announced that it is entering a new city, it drops off a fleet of E-scooters and lets users ride at their discretion. This practice has left many cities scrambling to regulate E-scooter rides, as the scooters are more versatile than bikes but far faster than normal pedestrians.1
Despite the confusion, Bird’s E-scooter sharing program has become popular as a form of “last mile” transportation because the E-scooters are:
- Advertised an environmentally conscious,
- Less inconvenient to ride than shared bicycles,
- Relatively inexpensive to rent, and
- Dockless, so they could be parked anywhere rather than at designated locations that could be several streets away from the end destination.
1.1. Bird’s E-scooters
The E-scooter company Bird has used a small handful of E-scooter models for its rentals. Early on, Bird provided the following three types of E-scooters:
- Bird Ninebot ES2,
- Bird Ninebot ES4, and
- Bird Xiaomi M365.
Both of the Ninebot models were made by scooter manufacturer Segway. The M365 was made by Xiaomi, a Chinese electronics company. These models were not very durable, though, and broke easily when vandalized.
Bird has increasingly taken E-scooter manufacturing in-house to control costs and make E-scooters that can take the punishment of ridesharing. Bird’s own design, the Bird Zero, has quickly been used to replace older scooters made by Segway and Xiaomi. By late July, Bird Zero scooters accounted for three-quarters of Bird’s fleet.2
More recently, Bird has been experimenting with newer models that are even more durable. They also have better batteries and extra features, like:
- Bird One, which has a 30-mile range and can be bought, rather than rented, and
- Bird Two, which has sensors that self-report damage to Bird.
These E-scooters are all designed to go up to nearly 20 miles per hour. While users are supposed to wear helmets and watch safety videos about how to ride Bird’s E-scooters, few actually do.
Bird pays people to collect its E-scooters every night and bring them inside to recharge. These people, known as “chargers,” are also supposed to look for damage to the vehicles and report them to Bird. This maintenance reporting system, however, often misses damaged vehicles that put subsequent riders at risk.
2. What are types of E-scooter accidents?
The uncertain rules about how to ride Bird’s E-scooters – together with reckless driving habits and the scooters’ high speeds – have led to thousands of accidents involving Bird’s E-scooters. The risks of riding one of Bird’s E-scooters are not hypothetical: Hospitals have noted a sharp rise in emergency room visits in the weeks after Bird dropped off a fleet of vehicles.3
These E-scooter accidents tend to fall inside one of the four following categories:
- The accident only involved the driver of the Bird E-scooter,
- The crash involved an E-scooter and a pedestrian,
- The crash involved an E-scooter and a car, and
- A pedestrian tripped and fell over a stationary E-scooter.
2.1. Single-vehicle E-scooter crashes
A significant portion of crashes involving Bird’s E-scooters are single-vehicle accidents that only involve the E-scooter rider.
A lot of these crashes are the result of rider inexperience. People who are unfamiliar with the speed and surprising power of Bird’s E-scooters – especially its newer models – can find themselves struggling to control it. In fact, one study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) looked at E-scooter crashes in Austin, Texas. It found that one in three riders who got hurt was in the middle of their very first E-scooter ride.4
Just because there was no one else involved, though, does not automatically make a single-vehicle E-scooter crash the rider’s fault. There are numerous circumstances that can lead to a single-vehicle crash, like:
- Deep potholes that throw a rider off their scooter,
- Poorly-laid sidewalk blocks,
- Drivers or other E-scooter riders nearly causing a collision and forcing you off the road, and
- Defective brakes or steering on the E-scooter.
2.2. Crashes between E-scooters and pedestrians
Accidents involving Bird’s E-scooters and pedestrians tend to be more severe. They are also the kinds of accidents that get lots of attention because of how frequently pedestrians claim they are threatened by recklessly-driven scooters on the sidewalks.
Just because a pedestrian was hit, though, does not automatically make it the E-scooter rider’s fault. There are numerous situations where the pedestrian could have caused the crash, or where no one was at fault.
2.3. Crashes between E-scooters and cars
The most severe kinds of accidents involving Bird’s E-scooters tend to be when an E-scooter rider collides with a car.
Many of these accidents happen when someone in a car that has been parked on the side of the road opens their door into an E-scooter’s way. If the person in the car opens their door at the wrong time, it can leave the E-scooter rider with no time to avoid the crash. This is known as “dooring,” and is prohibited by law in California.5
2.4. Pedestrians falling over a stationary E-scooter
The convenience of leaving Bird’s E-scooters anywhere is one of the main attractions of scooter sharing. However, pedestrians often have to deal with littered E-scooters on sidewalks and parking lots. If they are not careful, they can trip and fall and get hurt.
In cases like these, injured walkers could be entitled to compensation from several different people, depending on the circumstances:
- The local government, if the city assumed responsibility for discarded E-scooters,
- Whoever owns the premises where they tripped and fell over the E-scooter,
- The driver who left the E-scooter in a place where it was foreseeable for someone to fall over it, or
- Bird, if the company assumed a legal obligation with the city to gather its fleet of scooters, and the particular E-scooter had been left out for a long period of time.
3. What are common injuries?
Some injuries happen more than others after an E-scooter accident. The severity of those injuries can be startling.
One medical study looked at 249 people who went to the emergency room after an E-scooter accident. It found that head injuries were the most common6:
|Fractures and Broken Bones||31.7%|
|Soft Tissue Injuries||27.7%|
While head injuries are going to be overrepresented in any study that only looks at injuries that led to an emergency room visit, the trend is disturbing.
The numbers are backed up by figures provided by the CDC’s study in Austin, Texas. Out of the 190 injured E-scooter riders, nearly half had an injury that the study considered to be “severe.”7 This included:
- 3% of victims had skull fractures,
- 19% of victims had multiple fractures from the crash,
- 48% of victims had either a fracture, laceration, or abrasion to their head, and
- 35% of victims broke a bone other than their nose, finger, or toe.
4. What compensation is available to E-scooter victims?
People who have been involved in an E-scooter accident after riding one of Bird’s vehicles can be entitled to compensatory damages. This includes compensation for their:
- Past medical bills,
- Anticipated future medical attention and expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Reduced earning capacity, due to their injuries,
- Pain and suffering,
- Wrongful death (if applicable), and
- Loss of consortium for their family.
5. How can Bird’s user agreement impact a lawsuit?
Bird E-scooter accident lawsuits often have to overcome the user agreement that Bird forces riders to sign before renting their E-scooters.8 This user agreement is an extensive liability waiver that Bird tries to use to avoid paying for a crash.
Bird’s user agreement is a “click-wrap contract” – one that you sign by clicking an “I agree” button. By clicking the button to the user agreement, you agree to be bound by its terms.
Those terms total 16 pages of single-spaced font. Therefore, few people actually read it before clicking the “I agree” button. The provisions of the contract focus extensively on all of the ways that Bird is not responsible for anything that happens while you are riding its E-scooters. For example, some of the provisions include:
- An agreement that the rider will following all laws and regulations related to riding an E-scooter – even if they contradict the scant riding guidelines provided by Bird’s instruction videos,9
- A release that waives Bird’s liability for injuries caused by a defective E-scooter,10 and
- A list of prohibited acts on a scooter that break the user agreement and absolve Bird of liability.11
5.1. Forced arbitration to settle injuries caused by Bird’s E-scooters
A key component of Bird’s user agreement is Section 9, which forces victims to arbitrate their claims rather than take them to superior court. It also forces Bird users to waive their right to join a class action.
Under the user agreement, this arbitration is to take place in Los Angeles, no matter where the accident occurred.12
The only way to opt-out of these provisions is to send a written notice to the following address within 30 days of your first Bird ride:
Bird Rides, Inc.
406 Broadway, #369
Santa Monica, California 90401
Failure to do so, unfortunately, makes it more difficult to recover compensation from Bird for their role in your crash.13 However, overcoming user agreements like this with the electric scooter company is not impossible.
- See e.g., Christina Araviakis, “Birds Take Flight in Baltimore: The City’s Attempt to Regulate the New Electric Scooters,” University of Baltimore Law Review (December 7, 2018).
- Megan Rose Dickey, “Bird is Raising a Series D Round Led by Sequoia at $2.5 Billion Valuation,” TechCrunch (July 22, 2019).
- See e.g., Mary Wisniewski, “Watch Out! Cities With Electric Scooters Have Seen Hundreds of Injuries, from Broken Arms to Brain Trauma,” Chicago Tribune (May 13, 2019).
- “Dockless Electric Scooter-Related Injuries Study – Austin, Texas, September-November 2018,” Austin Public Health (April, 2019).
- California Vehicle Code 22517 (“No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”)
- Trivedi TK, Liu C, Antonio ALM, et al., “Injuries Associated With Standing Electric Scooter Use,” Journal of the American Medical Association 2(1):e187381 (January 25, 2019).
- See note 4.
- Bird User Agreement (Effective April 30, 2019).
- Note 8 at Section 1.7.
- Note 8 at Section 15.
- Note 8 at Section 1.8.
- Note 8 at Section 9.3.
- Janet Lorin, “Electric-scooter injuries pile up, but making the lawsuits stick is hard,” Los Angeles Times (January 25, 2019).