An e-bike accident lawsuit is a claim for damages against the person or company responsible for injuries sustained by the rider of an electric bicycle. These lawsuits are typically brought against a motorist, bicyclist or pedestrian who causes the accident. But claims can also be brought against the manufacturer of the e-bike based on products liability.
The earliest patents for electric bikes (e-bikes) date to the 1890s, but they've only exploded in popularity in the United States within the past several years—with no signs of slowing down. Indeed, the California Department of Transportation says e-bikes are “on the brink of a boom,1” but unfortunately, more e-bikes buzzing around has also meant more accidents. In April 2019, transportation network company Lyft even temporarily scrapped e-bike-sharing plans in three cities after reports of injuries.
When things go wrong with e-bikes, those who have been injured may be entitled to compensation for:
- Current and future medical bills and expenses,
- Lost wages and earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering, and
- The family's loss of companionship.
- 1. What is an e-bike?
- 2. What are California laws regarding e-bikes?
- 3. What are common injuries associated with e-bikes?
- 4. Who can be sued after an e-bike accident?
- 5. What is the process for filing an e-bike accident lawsuit?
1. What is an e-bike?
An electric bike, or e-bike, has an electric motor and runs on rechargeable batteries instead of being propelled solely by the pedaling of its rider as with a traditional bicycle.
The placement and power of the motor varies by e-bike, and batteries generally requiring recharging after between 20 and 100 miles. E-bikes come in different versions based how they are operated; some must be pedaled while pedaling is optional for others.
2. What are California laws regarding e-bikes?
In 2015, the California legislature passed AB-1096,2 which classifies e-bikes into three categories based on their maximum speed and method of operation. The three classes of e-bikes under California law are:
- Class 1: bikes with a top assisted speed of 20 mph that must be pedaled,
- Class 2: bikes with a top assisted speed of 20 mph that do not have to be pedaled, and
- Class 3: bikes with a top assisted speed of 28 mph.
As one of the country's most progressive e-bike laws, AB-1096 allows Class 3 e-bikes to travel on public roads' bike lanes, while Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are permitted on multi-use paths unless local ordinances prohibit it. Class 3 operators must be at least 16 years old, and all riders under the age of 18 must wear a properly fitted and fastened bicycle helmet.
E-bikes are not considered motor vehicles in California, which means their operators are not required to obtain a special license to operate them. E-bikes don't need to be registered with the state, and liability insurance is not required, though some insurance policies may cover injuries sustained in accidents involving e-bikes.
Note that California allows cities and counties to pass additional regulations concerning e-bikes, so, if you are an e-bike operator, you should always make sure you are following applicable local law as well. Specifically, municipalities may pass ordinances regarding whether e-bikes can be used in bicycle lanes, paths, and trails. San Francisco,3 for example, prohibits bikes of any kind on sidewalks unless the rider is 13 years old or younger.
For the most part, the California Department of Transportation expects e-bike riders to follow the same safety tips that apply to conventional bicycle riders.
3. What are common injuries associated with e-bikes?
Typical e-bike accidents often involve other e-bikes, cars, or pedestrians, and injuries can be extensive, including fatalities. Scientifically speaking, because e-bikes are heavier and faster than conventional bicycles, the force of impact of an e-bike on a pedestrian can be between four and 45 times harder.
Some of the most common types of injuries associated with e-bikes include the following:
- Head, including traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Back and spinal injuries
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
4. Who can be sued after an e-bike accident?
When e-bike accidents happen, victims may be able to sue several parties to recover compensation for injuries. Potentially liable parties in personal injury e-bike lawsuits include:
- Motor vehicle operators
- Other e-bike operators
If your accident happened because of a malfunction with the e-bike itself, you may also be able to sue the manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit with one or more of the following claims:
- Defective design: an inherent flaw in the bike's design,
- Defective manufacturing: although the design is safe, something in the production process made the bike unsafe
- Labeling or warning error: the manufacturer failed to adequately warn consumer of dangers of using the e-bike.
5. What is the process for filing an e-bike accident lawsuit?
The first step in filing an e-bike lawsuit is to contact a personal injury attorney who will listen to your story and help you gather evidence to decide whether you have a solid case. If you do, your lawyer will file a complaint that details your injuries and requests the court for relief to compensate you for your damages, which may include:
- Reimbursement for medical treatment,
- Anticipated future medical costs,
- Lost wages during your recovery,
- Reduced earning capacity because of long-term effects of your injuries,
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering, and
- Loss of companionship.
The defendant then has an opportunity to respond to the complaint, and, unless there is a settlement through which the other party agrees to pay you a certain amount of money, the case will move into discovery. During this time, both sides produce documents and any other evidence that supports their position as well as conduct depositions of all parties, including any potential expert witnesses, treating physicians and other medical personnel, and anyone else whose testimony would be relevant to your case.
If your lawsuit reaches trial after various motions to dismiss or summary judgment motions, a jury will hear both sides and decide the case. If the court awards you damages, your attorney will help you collect them in a timely fashion.
Call us for help . . .
If you or a loved one has been injured in an e-bike accident, you may be entitled to compensation. The statute of limitations requires that you file a lawsuit related to an e-bike injury within two years, so you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to better understand your legal rights and options. You may also find useful information in our article on electric scooter accident lawsuits. Call us at 855-LAWFIRM to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer at Shouse Law Office and get the process moving.
California Department of Transportation, ebikes: An Innovation in Transportation on the brink of a boom in California (December 18, 2018).
Assembly Bill No. 1096, Chapter 568. Approved by Governor October 7, 2015. Filed with Secretary of State October 7, 2015.