Coverage for Electric Scooter Rentals

Jim Tice
Written on June 15, 2020

Society changes faster than insurance policy language.  New things come along never imagined by those who wrote insurance policies, and therefore, sometimes those policies don’t provide coverage.  Such is the case with the motorized scooters that can be rented in Indianapolis, and many other cities.

Anyone renting one of these scooters might look to either their auto policy or the liability portion of their homeowner’s policy to provide liability coverage in the event they injure someone or damage property while riding.  They might also expect the scooter company to accept the liability.  Let’s examine each of these.

The Scooter Company

Just for fun, I downloaded the app for one of these scooter rental companies.  One of the first things I needed to do to activate it was to approve their agreement.  You know how it is, every app has some legal stuff you need to agree to, and no one ever reads it.  We just agree, and use the app.  In this case, I did read it and found that the scooter rental company wanted me to agree to accept liability any time an injury or property damaged occurred on one of their scooters.    If I had agreed to it and rented one, I certainly couldn’t look to them if I got in an accident with it.   We understand San Francisco has passed an ordinance requiring scooter rental companies to accept liability for accidents involving their scooters, but don’t know of any other cities that have.

Your Car Insurance Policy

So, I read my auto insurance policy.  They covered me any time I was driving a car (with permission of the owner), but defined a car as a motor vehicle, designed for use on public roads, having four or more wheels.  You could make the case these scooters are motor vehicles because they are used on public roads, but unless their makers redesign them they don’t have four wheels and my car insurance wouldn’t protect me.  A check of several other policies revealed the same language.  There are literally hundreds of companies that will insure cars in Indiana, and I haven’t read all of their policies, but it is safe to say that most, if not all, of them, won’t cover a rented scooter.

Your Homeowners Policy

That leaves only a homeowners (or renters) policy where coverage might be found.  Although the policies I read all had slightly different language, the clear meaning of them was not to pay for damages caused by motorized vehicles, or motorized land conveyances.  Generally, they give coverage back if the motorized conveyance is designed for recreational use off public roads, but since these scooters are intended to be used on public roads, there is likely no coverage here either.

I imagine the time will come when insurance policy language will include liability coverage for the operation of rental scooters, perhaps at an additional charge.  It’s impossible for us to track everything every company does, and some may have already devised a way to provide coverage, so check with your agent.  But in the meantime, our suggestion is that you not rent them.  The potential financial consequences should you be in or cause an accident are just too great. (The same advice applies to motorized bicycles also available to rent in some cities.)