On the one hand, insuring e-scooters ticks the ESG box and adds some green/sustainable credentials to your insurance brand. But IE wonders if the risks are worth it in the long run. Let’s consider the recent evidence and try to predict where this market is heading.
Recent data from the UK Gov show that 483 people were injured last year by e-scooters and one person killed. Just under 300 of those injuries were recorded in London, where trials have been pioneered and some might say the take-up of illegal scooter riding has also proved to be most popular and difficult to Police.
Worryingly, in 2021 there have been three reported deaths by e-scooter in London, according to official TfL figures, reported by the Evening Standard. So as usage increases, so too does the death rate.
VOI WANTS SOME NEW LAWS
One of the market leading companies involved in the trials, Voi, has called for a piece of legislation to clarify the position on e-scooters. Voi are naturally quite coy about what they mean exactly, but do mention that they want `a level playing field’ as regards hire scooters and those sold online both having the same tech specs on power and speed.
But is speed the real issue here, or the mixture of untrained, unskilled e-scooter riders weaving in and out of heavy traffic the biggest risk? Just because you hold a car licence it doesn’t follow that you have any skill whatsoever on two wheels, a fact that is repeatedly ignored by almost everyone in the e-scooter debate.
There is a definite craze for illegal e-scooter riding, and it’s hard to see how the Police can devote resources to fighting this problem every single week. If the Police simply walk away saying they’re too busy, what happens when e-scooter riders collide with pedestrians and then ride away from the incident? Plus, many illegal riders are aged under 18, jobless, without assets, and cannot be dealt with by the justice system, which means those injured will receive zero compensation.
That could leave the insurance industry with a similar problem to uninsured motorists, basically a pool of cash would need to be ring-fenced to pay for injury claims submitted by pedestrians and property owners, who can prove material loss or injury from illegal scooter riders. Unless the government underwrites that risk of course? Much depends on fate, it will only take the tragic death of one child, followed by a campaign by celebrities, with the mainstream media tagging along for clicks, to force a solution into play.
But if the e-scooter pedestrian fatalities continue to be elderly people then you can expect very little media interest. That could mean governments, Councils and insurers can basically get away with doing nothing about compensation.
THE TECH ISN’T QUITE THERE YET
Hiring an e-scooter should mean you can use the thing in a small geographical area. In theory it does, but in reality – as ITV News reported – it is possible to simply ride the e-scooter on the motorway for a laugh and 10K likes on TikTok. The insurance industry needs to remind operators that the technology MUST work, and if it doesn’t then you lose your cover, your fleet policy is cancelled.
Twitter user David Wilcox from Bristol recently highlighted the pavement parking hazards which are caused by e-scooter bays. The photo above shows cycle rack space being taken up with Voi scooters and other Twitter users have reported clusters of scooters on the pavements creating a trip hazard for pedestrians. So if a cyclist falls over an e-scooter while trying to unlock their bike are Voi partially liable? Some might say yes, others may disagree, but one thing is certain – a claim will be filed at some point.
So, insurers need to be very clear indeed regarding the cover they offer on fleet policies, otherwise they may face PI claims as mobility scooter users, cylists and pedestrians collide with badly parked hire e-scooters. Councils too may share some liability in this respect, depending on how badly they set up parking bays for e-scooter riders in – or near to – pedestrianised sections of town centres.
e-scooters are a growing market and it looks like many Councils across the UK will keep on promoting them. There is good business to be had for brokers and insurers alike in the hire market.
But are insurers checking where the batteries are being recycled or stored when they begin to fail to hold charge? Who maintains the hire scooters and are they liable if someone crashes due to a flat tyre of brake failure, or is it rider error? Are insurers asking the right questions regarding the modern slavery aspects of lithium and cobalt mining for battery assembly? This ethical question may well come back to haunt the entire e-scooter movement one day, depending on the stance of green activists.
There are still many question marks over e-scooters and the issue of settling serious personal injury claims may prove to be an expensive process, due to the lack of hard evidence on rider qualifications, helmet wearing, road signage, hire point signage or app wording etc. IE sees several test cases ahead for one simple reason; past experience on incidents such as deaths at track days has proved that getting the rider to sign a disclaimer does NOT absolve insurers of all liability. You cannot use the “I Agree to The Terms and Conditions” checkbox as a get-out clause, history proves that.