California Electric Scooter Laws

Laws | April 29, 2019

Electric scooters and rideshare services that offer limited-use electric scooters to the public for a fee are quickly becoming common alternatives to walking and using public transportation in many major cities across the country. Residents of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other California cities have likely seen electric scooters from rideshare companies like Bird, and it is important that all California residents know the laws pertaining to these devices.

Electric scooters can potentially help cut down on traffic congestion in large cities and reduce the environmental impact of gas consumption, but they still pose several risks, prompting state lawmakers to enact new legal provisions pertaining to electric scooters.

Do You Need a License to Use an Electric Scooter?

Only licensed drivers may use electric scooters in California. Out-of-state licenses generally qualify as well, and instruction permit holders may use electric scooters as long as they follow all other applicable regulations.

Can You Ride on California Sidewalks?

Electric scooter operators may not ride on sidewalks. They may, however, use bike lanes and shoulders where available or ride on widened sidewalks in some areas. California law requires electric scooter users to park these devices on the edge of the curb, near bus stops, or near bike parking racks.

Do You Need Insurance to Use an Electric Scooter?

If you plan to use an electric scooter, California law does not directly require you to purchase insurance. However, since the state does require all electric scooter users have valid driver’s licenses, and drivers’ licenses require auto insurance, an electric scooter operator will likely have an auto insurance policy. However, the terms of the policy dictate whether it applies to electric scooter use. For privately owned electric scooters, California does not require registration, plate display, or insurance.

Are Electric Scooters Street Legal in California?

In most areas, electric scooter operators may not ride in the main lanes of traffic. California restricts electric scooter use to non-highway roads with speed limits no higher than 25mph, but some local ordinances may allow limited electric scooter traffic in areas with posted speed limits no greater than 35mph.

Legal Issues From Electric Scooter Accidents

Scooter Accidents

If an electric scooter operator suffers injuries from an accident, the cause of the accident informs the operator’s legal options for recovery. If a vehicle driver hits an electric scooter due to negligence, the case will follow a similar framework to most other personal injury claims. The jury reviewing the case will likely assign the operator a fault percentage and reduce his or her recovery accordingly by an equal percentage if the electric scooter operator bears any liability for an accident. California’s pure comparative negligence law allows a plaintiff to still recover damages regardless of fault, even if his or her fault percentage is 99%.

Company Liability

If a person rents an electric scooter from a rideshare service like Lime or Bird, the company could face liability for any resulting damages. If the company failed to properly service a damaged bike or did not include appropriate instructions for use or safety warnings, the company could face liability for an injured scooter operator’s damages.

Similarly, if an electric scooter manufacturer released an unreasonably dangerous or defective device that causes injuries to a user, the user could have grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer. If you were a victim of a rideshare company’s negligence or defective product, speak with the Sacramento injury lawyers at Rosenthal Law today.

Rider Liability

It is also possible for an electric scooter operator to face legal action for an accident or other penalties for inappropriate use of an electric scooter. All riders under the age of 18 must wear appropriately fitted helmets at all times while riding and abide by posted traffic laws and local ordinances. If an electric scooter operator mounts the sidewalk or crosses an intersection illegally and injures a pedestrian, cyclist, or anyone else, the scooter operator will likely face liability for the incident.