Electric bikes are becoming more popular among every demographic. Everyone, from retired adults to children, has found these “micromobility” devices to be convenient and comfortable alternatives for transportation. Unfortunately, electric bikes, or e-bikes, pose unique and potentially deadly risks to riders.
Take the case of Molly Steinsapir, a 12-year-old California girl. In 2021, Molly and her friend were riding a two-person e-bike downhill a short distance from Molly’s home when the brakes failed. The pair crashed at the bottom of the hill, and Molly was flung off the device. Despite wearing a helmet, she lost consciousness on impact and never woke up.
Molly’s case is not unique. E-bikes and other micromobility devices put their riders in more danger than standard bicycles or motor vehicles, especially if manufactured incorrectly. An invisible flaw can cause riders serious injuries or even death.
However, it looks like e-bikes are here to stay despite the dangers. That’s why it’s important to learn from cases like Molly’s. Here’s what you should know about the risks of electric bikes, why accidents are increasing, and when manufacturers could be liable for the harm their products cause.
Electric Bike Accidents Are Increasing
It should come as no surprise that e-bike accidents are becoming more common. After all, the popularity of these devices has increased dramatically over the past decade. Some increase in accidents is inevitable just because they are more common. The problem is that e-bike injuries and deaths are rapidly outpacing even their growth in popularity.
In 2022, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) performed a study on deaths and injuries related to micromobility products like e-bikes. Micromobility devices are defined as low-speed, lightweight items that are intended to provide transportation over short distances. While the term can refer to all types of transportation devices, it is most often used to describe electricity-powered items like e-bikes, hoverboards, and scooters.
According to the CPSC study, emergency room visits for these devices more than doubled between 2017 and 2021. In 2017, there were approximately 34,000 national ER trips related to a micromobility device. In contrast, there were about 77,200 related ER trips in 2021, an increase of 227% over five years. The study found the majority of this increase was due to e-bike and electric scooter accidents. But why are these accidents so common?
Why Are Electric Bikes So Dangerous?
Micromobility devices exist in a gray area of legal and safety regulations. They are faster than unpowered scooters and bikes but aren’t equivalent to cars or motorcycles.
That gray area is where the problems lie. While California has some of the clearest laws nationwide on how micromobility devices can be used, they are not well-known among users. This can cause confusion about who can use these devices, when, and where. As a result, riders may be more likely to make dangerous decisions unless the manufacturers provide warnings about safe use.
More importantly, manufacturing regulations are only just beginning to catch up to the state of the industry. Manufacturers do not need to perform the same kind of safety checks on an e-bike that they would need to perform for a highway-rated motorcycle, for example. Riders may only discover dangerous defects when they suffer a serious accident.
Other risks posed by e-bikes include:
- Speed: One of the biggest draws of micromobility products is their speed. However, this is also their biggest danger. Higher speeds mean that accidents can cause more serious injuries. They also give riders less time to react, making crashes harder to avoid.
- Lack of safety features: Motor vehicles rated for highway use must have certain safety features, like headlights and brake lights, turn signals, mirrors, and a horn. However, e-bikes don’t need any of these, making them harder to spot and more dangerous for riders.
- Failure points: Compared to unpowered bikes, e-bikes have many more failure points that could cause serious accidents, like the electrical system, battery, and powered brakes.
- Fires: Many micromobility manufacturers have had to issue product recalls after the batteries caught fire during use. That’s a problem unpowered devices simply do not have.
How E-Bike Manufacturers May Be Liable for Faulty Products
The Steinsapirs believe that the manufacturer of Molly’s bike is legally responsible for her death, and they’ve filed a civil lawsuit to prove it. They may well be right. Under California’s strict product liability laws, companies are wholly liable for any harm their products cause because of:
- Manufacturing defects: Flaws with a specific item caused by a failure to follow the design, such as an electric bike with incorrectly installed brakes.
- Design defects: Flaws caused by a fundamental issue in the product’s design, like an e-bike design that uses brakes that aren’t rated for the device’s maximum speed.
- Warning defects: The failure to adequately warn consumers about a reasonably foreseeable risk, such as the potential for brake failures on steep slopes.
Under strict liability, the manufacturer doesn’t need to be negligent to be found responsible for injuries its products cause. If you can prove that you were harmed by a product while using it in a reasonably foreseeable way due to a lack of warnings or a fundamental flaw with the product, the manufacturer may be liable. This standard encourages companies to go the extra mile to make their products safe even if other regulations do not require it. It also gives you grounds to seek compensation if you’re hurt by a faulty micromobility product.
Talk to a California Attorney About Your E-Bike Accident
If you’ve been seriously hurt in an e-bike accident, you could have a case against the manufacturer. At The Ellis Firm, APLC, we can help. Talk to us today about your accident to learn whether your bike accident could qualify for a product liability personal injury claim. We can help you determine if you have a claim and pursue compensation for your injuries. Learn more about how our California personal injury lawyers can help by scheduling your consultation now.