By ALLEN MCQUISTON
The Jemez Agency
I was in San Francisco this summer and came across these electrical scooter you can rent in one spot and drop off in another. Of course that got my insurance mind off and running … to find an article to address this new trend.
Fleets of dockless electric scooters made by companies such as Bird and Lime have sprouted up in a number of urban areas throughout the country. Bird advertises on their website that they now offer their service in over 100 cities and universities, while Lime offers similar services in over 70 cities. For as little as 15 cents per minute, individuals can ride these modern-day electric ponies at speeds up to 15 miles an hour as they go to and from their office or to simply sightsee.
As you can imagine, this has led to some unintended issues. For starters, one hospital emergency room, according to the Washington Post, has already reported a 161 percent increase in visits involving electric scooters.
Another issue, which most people probably haven’t considered, is that there isn’t insurance coverage included for this exposure as part of a typical home and auto insurance program.
This might come as a shock to you, especially to those of you who have rented cars while on vacation and have been assured that your personal auto policy covers the rental. The difference? Almost every auto insurance policy in the marketplace has an exclusion in it for liability coverage for the ownership, maintenance, or use of any vehicle which has fewer than four wheels ( think motorcycle or ATV, which needs its own policy). Therefore if you rent a scooter and cause bodily injury and/or property damage as a result of the rental, your auto policy will not provide coverage.
Similarly, typical homeowner policies have motor vehicle exclusions in them. Specifically, the policy won’t treat the rented scooter as covered property in the event you wreck it. In addition, the personal liability section of the policy will exclude coverage for the use of motor vehicles, which is usually defined as a “self-propelled land or amphibious vehicle.”
I have written articles in the past focused on the sharing economy and some insurance-related challenges that have resulted from it.
In those pieces I have warned against individuals renting out their homes and cars; this situation is the reverse but the same caution should be exercised. Just because homes, cars, or in this case electric scooters are available for rental, don’t make the assumption that your insurance program will adequately protect you.
Check with your insurance professional before renting any vehicle to make sure you have adequate protection.