Changes are coming to Queensland with new e-scooter rules announced to slash e-scooter footpath speeds from 25 kph to 12 kph and launch a new safety education campaign in response to pedestrians’ concerns. Attwood Marshall Lawyers Compensation Law Senior Paralegal Amy Lewis discusses the need for laws to be changed and the potential recourse for a personal injury compensation claim in an e-scooter accident.
Queensland is set to roll out new e-scooter rules from 1 November 2022, which will include enforceable speed limits and a crackdown on drink-riding. It is expected that police will be ramping up efforts to enforce e-scooter offences in the coming weeks, in anticipation of the changes.
With e-scooters becoming more popular, especially in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the Palaszczuk Government recently announced that they would make footpaths and bike lanes safer for e-scooter riders but also cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians.
Recently, police in Brisbane issued 84 traffic infringements during a 12-hour operation targeting dangerous e-scooter use in the CBD and Fortitude Valley, highlighting the need for better regulations applying to the use of these vehicles. In April this year, a 55-year-old man died following an incident involving an electric scooter at Ferny Hills.
Initial investigations indicated that the Ferny Hills man was riding the scooter along the footpath near the intersection of Glenwood Place and Yellowood Drive at approximately 3.50pm, when he crashed into a concrete wall.
The maximum speed on scooters will be slashed to just 12 kph on footpaths – half of the current limit, while e-scooters will also be able to use dedicated bike lanes to free up footpaths as part of the new rules.
In addition, high-risk e-scooter offences, including drink and drug driving penalties, will be created and undergo legislative reforms.
The current rules and what will change
Currently, e-scooters for hire in Brisbane have a pre-programmed top speed of 25kph, which is the speed limit for e-scooters on both footpaths and roads.
The new rules will see e-scooters slow down to 12 kph on footpaths or risk a fine.
The government has not announced what the fine will be, or how they will enforce speed limits. For that, they need to examine legislation.
Under the new rules, there is some concern that congestion could increase. The government will be permitting e-scooters to use bikeways. Parking could also become an issue with new parking-related rules to be introduced.
Riders are expected to be responsible for where they park e-scooters, but it appears the message is not being received. Disability groups have informed the government that some of their members feel so threatened by e-scooters that they try to avoid areas where they are used.
Until the finer details of the policy are settled, including penalties for people using e-scooters under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the government will be formulating an education campaign to inform riders of their responsibilities.
What is the issue?
Under current law, e-scooters are characterised as mobility scooters, which permits them access to all travel routes accessible by pedestrians.
E-scooters are also permitted on roads with a speed limit of 50kph, although the 25kph speed limit still applies to mobility scooters. While on the road, e-scooters must comply with standard road rules. Meaning riders can be fined at least $137 for riding under the influence of alcohol or using a mobile phone while operating the vehicle. Conflictingly, those laws do not exist when e-scooters are ridden on footpaths.
Can e-scooters have speed limits built-in?
It is possible to decrease the speed of an e-scooter by changing its software. For example, hired e-scooters can only go as fast as 25kph, however, private e-scooters can go faster.
Speed limits can also be set so e-scooters can only be used within a specific area. It is called geofencing, which uses GPS to render the e-scooters inoperable outside a specific zone.
Why has it taken so long to establish appropriate safety rules?
E-scooters were launched in Queensland in 2018, and since then, the number of people caught speeding has surged.
In 2019, only two people were caught riding an e-scooter at over 25kph. In 2021, 54 people were caught speeding between January and October.
The number of accidents has also increased. In Queensland, the Gold Coast University Hospital reported that in 2021, there were 100 emergency department presentations for e-scooter accidents. In many cases, the accidents have resulted in surgical intervention being required, with a range of minor and major injuries being reported including significant head injuries, and fractures to wrists, arms, and legs.
How do other states compare?
New South Wales
In New South Wales, it is against the law to ride an e-scooter on any road or road-related area. A road-related area includes footpaths, cycle paths, and public car parks. The only place to legally ride an e-scooter in NSW is on private property.
Because e-scooters are legally classified as motorcycles, riders must wear an authorised motorcycle helmet, hold a valid motorcycle licence, and adhere to the same road rules as motorcyclists.
An e-scooter is a registrable motor vehicle; however, there is an issue where they are ineligible for registration as they do not meet the Australian Design Standards. This means that riders can be charged or fined for riding an unregistered or uninsured vehicle, and a vehicle with unpaid registration tax. Police can even seize an e-scooter and apply for it to be forfeited to the Crown. E-scooter riders can also be fined for not having the correct type of licence or charged if the licence has been suspended or disqualified.
All e-scooter riders, for private or public use, must be over 18 years old in Victoria. In addition, privately-owned e-scooters can only be operated in public with a speed limit of 10kph and a motor capacity of less than 200 watts to be classified as a “wheeled recreational vehicle”.
Even then, e-scooters can only be ridden on footpaths, shared paths, bike paths and in parks (unless you see a ‘no wheel recreational vehicles’ sign). According to the VicRoads website, riding scooters that are “not part of a commercially operated share scheme” can attract a fine of $182.
In addition, riding a private e-scooter on a public road or road-related area can also attract an $826 fine for riding an unregistered vehicle.
Legal recourse for e-scooter accidents
Claims for injuries arising from e-scooter accidents in Queensland are generally more complex than ordinary road accidents. There are some issues that a personal injury or compensation lawyer will consider when acting for a party involved in an e-scooter collision.
Depending on the circumstances leading to injury, an injured party could make a compensation claim against an e-scooter manufacturer, e-scooter sharing services, the relevant local council, the property owner that the e-scooter was being used on, or the rider. A claim could also be made against the party at fault’s third-party or public liability insurance if an insurance policy covers that incident.
A fundamental consideration as to whether a claim for personal injuries against an e-scooter operator is tenable is whether the operator of the e-scooter is covered by a policy of insurance or capable of satisfying a judgment for damages. Most individuals confronted with uninsured personal injury claims are judgment proof.
Some major insurers include liability cover as part of home and contents policies.
For example, before November 2020, Suncorp’s legal liability cover under its home and contents policies did not exclude e-scooter accidents.
Cars, motorbikes, and mopeds, that are registered vehicles, are subject to compulsory third-party insurance in Queensland. Public liability coverage for bicycles is also a common feature in home and contents insurance policies. But, in the case of e-scooters, there is no mandatory injury insurance scheme, and public liability insurance policies are not easily accessible for individuals.
The lack of mandatory public liability insurance has some critical reverberations for e-scooters. Often is the case with motor vehicle accidents, blame usually falls on the careless or reckless driving of the rider. However, an e-scooter rider is unlikely to have any insurance to cover injuries. For example, if there is a mechanical fault in the vehicle or if the design or poor road maintenance created an unsafe driving environment, the fault could potentially be placed on a third-party. However, these cases are comparatively less common. In the absence of an insurer, the at-fault rider will have to front the costs of any compensation payable.
If a severe injury occurs, a rider may be significantly less capable of covering the cost of compensation, compared to an insurance company or local council.
Even if sharing services could be held liable for an injury occurring, user agreements are often worded in a way that limits or shifts liability back onto its users. Naturally, this can be unfortunate news for riders and injured persons. In addition, there is an insurance gap in the e-scooter sector that could leave victims with insufficient or no compensation.
As the sector advances, third-party and public liability insurance products will potentially enter the market and be widely adopted by services such as Lime. However, insurance cover for injuries suffered by or caused by riders is not standard. If e-scooters are to become a permanent mode of public transport in Queensland, regulation of and access to insurance products must continue to progress to meet the demand for these vehicles. The government must address safety concerns lest we shift towards New South Wales’ more prohibitive stance on e-scooter usage.
Two new companies were recently awarded tenders for e-bikes and e-scooters by the Brisbane City Council: Beam and Neuron Mobility.
Neuron Mobility is the first insurance provider to offer third-party liability insurance cover to e-scooter riders. This insurance was reported as pivotal to their successful tender. Still, Neuron’s cover is subject to the policy terms, and it is necessary to consider whether those terms may exclude a particular claim. For example, the policy (in its current terms) does not cover operators under the age of 16 or operators who fail to wear a helmet.
For people involved in an e-scooter accident, a lawyer representing a party must identify:
- the names of the involved parties
- the circumstances in which the accident occurred
- the date of the accident
- all potential respondents to a claim
- the scheme which regulates the claim
- any insurance held by the party at fault or, at least, the name of their insurer
For those who are risk-averse, it would be wise to investigate the availability of third-party liability insurance before riding an e-scooter (or allowing your children to operate one). E-scooters are fun and a convenient mode of transport, but most people can’t afford to pay a personal injury claim (and the legal costs involved) out of their pocket if an unfortunate event does occur.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping people receive the treatment they need and compensation they deserve after being injured in an accident
Whether you are a pedestrian, e-scooter rider, cyclist, driver, passenger, or motorbike rider, injured in an accident caused by someone else, you may be able to claim compensation to help you obtain the treatment you need and to support you financially during a time when your life has been turned upside down.
Making a compensation claim and dealing with insurance providers can be daunting for many people. Our personal injury lawyers are here to advocate for you and fight to get you the best result so you can focus on what matters most, your health and your recovery.
To get your claim underway or to discuss your unique matter confidentially and our no win no fee service offering, contact our Compensation Law Department by phoning 1800 621 071 or book an appointment with one of our compensation lawyers by using our instant online booking app.