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E-Scooter Riders Aren’t Covered by PIP, NJ Supreme Court Rules

man riding e-scooter

Individuals injured while riding low-speed, electric scooters are not covered by PIP insurance policies typically available to victims injured in auto, pedestrian, or bicycle accidents, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled.

The ruling stems from Goyco v. Progressive Insurance Company, a case brought by an e-scooter rider who was struck and injured by a vehicle in Elizabeth, NJ in 2001. Following the accident, the rider sought coverage from his auto insurer, Progressive, under his Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, a hallmark of New Jersey’s no-fault insurance system that’s designed to allow auto accident victims to recover prompt payment for medical bills arising from a crash, regardless of who caused it.

As court records show, Progressive denied the rider’s claim on the basis that the e-scooter was not an “automobile” nor a “pedestrian,” both of which are covered by PIP. The rider took the matter to court, losing at both the trial and appellate levels after judges agreed with Progressive’s position that PIP does not cover being injured on a scooter.

The case then made its way to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where the rider argued that electric scooters are essentially bicycles and that riders injured on e-scooters are therefore eligible for PIP benefits. In support of his argument, the rider and his attorneys noted that New Jersey’s No Fault Act covers bicyclists and that a 2019 law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy called for electric scooters to be regulated like bicycles.

The NJ Supreme Court disagreed. In its ruling, it held that the No Fault Act covers bicyclists as pedestrians because the legal definition of pedestrian requires “muscular power,” and that low-speed, electric scooters, which are powered by motors, do not meet this definition. The Court added that New Jersey could expand PIP coverage to include e-scooter riders as it has done with motorcyclists, but that the matter is one for the Legislature and not the Court.

You can read more about the case here.

What the Ruling Means for E-Scooter Riders

The NJ Supreme Court’s ruling is a major blow to e-scooter riders across the state, many of whom rely on these affordable, low-speed, electric transportation devices as an alternative to costlier commuting options. As such, it disproportionately affects our most vulnerable road users. As Levinson Axelrod, P.A. Partner and Shareholder Michael B. Fusco noted:

"E-scooters are often used by the segment of the population most unlikely to have other sources of insurance to cover their medical expenses in the event of an accident – the young and the economically disadvantaged. So, this decision really leaves many of the State's most vulnerable in a bad situation where they won't be able to access the auto insurance coverage they or their family members pay a premium to maintain."

For riders who depend on e-scooters, the ruling has major implications – namely in that it leaves riders with few options for insurance coverage to protect them if they suffer injuries. "This is especially concerning given the number of e-scooters promoted by large city governments in our state like Hoboken and Jersey City,” said Partner Michael B. Fusco. “I am not personally aware of any insurance carriers in the state that are currently offering e-scooter insurance, so this really leaves no safety net for riders if they are injured."

Another implication is that the ruling could leave injured victims with no option other than litigating claims for medical bills. As Partner Fusco stated:

"The Supreme Court has really missed the mark here in their obligation to protect consumers in the Garden State by their decision in the Goyco case. All this will do is shift claims from no fault carriers to bodily injury carriers, making it more difficult for injured victims to get the prompt medical treatment they need."

Ultimately, the Supreme Court did provide a silver lining in its statement that the state of New Jersey could very well extend the availability of PIP coverage to e-scooter riders, just as it had done with motorcyclists, if lawmakers and lobbyists come to some agreement. While that provides hope, it may still take some time.

"Hopefully the decision will be seen as a punt over to the legislature, who can promptly codify access to medical benefits for which consumers pay very high premiums,” said Fusco.

Injured in an E-Scooter Accident? Levinson Axelrod Can Help.

At Levinson Axelrod, P.A., we know that e-scooter riders, like bicyclists, are extremely vulnerable road users who face increased risks of suffering serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents. And while the recent ruling in Goyco creates a large gap when it comes to e-scooter riders being able to access important no-fault insurance benefits after being injured in accidents, the fact remains that riders may still be able to pursue civil personal injury claims against parties that negligently caused them harm. This could include negligent motorists, property owners, or product manufacturers.

As we look for the Legislature to act on this important issue, we remain committed to helping e-scooter riders protect their rights after being injured in preventable crashes. If you or someone you love were injured while riding an e-scooter anywhere in the state, we’re here to help.

Levinson Axelrod, P.A. offers FREE consultations., call (732) 440-3089 or contact us online.

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