Over the weekend I saw to a minor collision between a (thankfully) slow moving e-scooter and a pedestrian. It was unclear who was at fault, however everyone walked away without injury. It got me thinking about what would have happened if the crash would have been worse? What would have happened to any costs arising from the incident? Would insurance have covered the scooter rider?
*Cue research montage*
Given the amount of e-scooters I have seen around over the last few weeks since the easing of lockdown restrictions, it was surprising to discover that the use of privately owned e-scooters on public roads and pavements is still illegal (and punishable by a £300 fine, 6 points on your licence, and possible confiscation of the vehicle).
Interestingly, apart from some fines levied last year, it seems that the police have stopped enforcing against e-scooter users. The UK government has also recently announced that it has brought forward the trial of e-scooters from next year to this month. This will allow Councils to test the use of scooters provided by rental companies within their particular borough - with Milton Keynes one of the first towns to confirm its participation in this new trial.
But what does this mean for e-scooter insurance coverage?
At the moment, unfortunately, the initial results don't look too good for e-scooter riders. There would be little to no coverage under the user’s home insurance policy, especially given that while scooting (scootering?) they are currently deemed to be engaged in an illegal activity.
With reference to the government trial, the guidelines outline that the scooters "will continue to be classed as motor vehicles" - meaning users will have to have a valid driver’s licence and the right insurance. The government is expecting the trials of e-scooters to mirror those of the rental e-bikes that we see around the streets of London. It seems probable that this insurance will be provided by the e-scooter rental company. I mean, can you imagine the user experience if you had to purchase insurance prior to riding it?! These companies do, however, make the riders sign rental agreements that "essentially strip them [e-scooter rental company] of all liability". Meaning that the rider is responsible for any accident.
In the long term, it also follows that e-scooters (and e-bikes) will probably follow the same legislation that is currently in place for cyclists - which doesn't require cyclists to have insurance to ride on the road. Despite not being mandatory, the proliferation of companies offering cycle insurance certainly suggests that there is demand for insurance - could insurance for e-scooters follow a similar pattern?
Given the current usage levels we are seeing in London, it seems inevitable that these electric scooters will play a part in changing the way we travel post lockdown. But with the increase in their numbers on the road (and pavements) it seems only a matter of time before an e-scooter crash results in a substantial claims (similar to a cycle legal case settled last year). And with the vehicles current legal standing this could leave the rider seriously out of pocket.
It will be interesting to see the results from the trial, and whether or not the government decides to legalise the use of privately owned e-scooters. It’s certainly the case that that interesting changes are fast approaching in this space, both from a mobility and an insurance perspective.
Unfortunately, it seems that we are moving in a more litigious direction. I wonder if this liability factor is what drives people to buy insurance when it is not a legal necessity for them to purchase it?
It seems it will only be a matter of time before electric scooters are legalised in the UK