ACC claims for e-scooter accidents top $30m

A small group of Lime scooter riders make their way down the Cumberland St cycleway. Photo:...
A small group of Lime scooter riders make their way down the Cumberland St cycleway. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Taxpayers have handed over $30 million for e-scooter-related injuries in the four years since the machines started whizzing about New Zealand’s streets.

New data shows people injured by e-scooters lodged 10,577 claims with ACC, which paid out $30.1m between October 2018 and October 2022.

That included paying $7.4m for 2215 claims in the 10 months from January to October this year.

The average cost per claim was $2931.

That’s down from an average of $3287 last year but well up on the $1165 cost per claim in 2018 when e-scooter rentals started on local streets.

A horrifying crash in August showed how scary some e-scooter accidents can be after a rider was hit by a car and sent somersaulting into the air before slamming into the pavement.

The dangers were also highlighted by 23-year-old Toben Hunt’s death after he fell from an e-scooter in Auckland in September 2019.

Toben Hunt, 23, died after he fell from a Lime scooter in downtown Auckland. Photo:Supplied
Toben Hunt, 23, died after he fell from a Lime scooter in downtown Auckland. Photo:Supplied
A 2019 study also found surgeons in Auckland were operating on more e-scooter users than motorbike riders and that e-scooter riders were arriving with traumatic injuries usually seen in car crashes.

Other studies have showed the dangers of riding e-scooters after drinking alcohol.

However Auckland Council said it had continually improved its code of practice for companies renting out e-scooters, to ensure they had policies encouraging safer use of the devices and better control of where they were parked.

It awarded Beam and Lime the latest round of licences in October to operate 900 rental e-scooters across the city.

A bid by campaigners to have a High Court judge declare transport agency Waka Kotahi was wrong to allow e-scooters to be ridden on footpaths also failed last month.

Justice Graham Lang dismissed advocacy group Living Streets Aotearoa’s three major claims against e-scooter use in his November review.

The claims stated e-scooters should be considered motor vehicles requiring riders to gain a licence, that Waka Kotahi should have held consultations to allow their use and that the agency made a mistake in not having a way to ensure overly powerful e-scooters were being used.

Living Streets Aotearoa’s Chris Teo-Sherrall said his group wanted e-scooters taken off footpaths with riders forced to use bike paths and roads instead.

"The [High Court] decision means that pedestrians - blind and disabled ones in particular - will continue to be inconvenienced … and endangered by the inconsiderate behaviour of too many e-scooter users who pass pedestrians too quickly and too closely and leave the devices obstructing the footpaths," he told Newsroom.

However, while ACC receives claims for everything from broken teeth and bones to concussion and brain injuries, most people reported much smaller injuries.

"Seventy-four per cent of our claims haven’t been for anything worse than a serious cut or gash," ACC said in a report last year.

The most recent ACC data obtained by the New Zealand Herald showed that cycling resulted in far more injuries than e-scooters.

Over the four-year period from October 2018 to October this year, cycling-related claims to ACC totalled about $411m.

That was compared to $30.1m for e-scooters and $14.5m for rollerblading.

Last year, taxpayers paid $8.2m in e-scooter-related ACC claims and $114m in cycling-related claims – the highest totals for both in any of the last four years.

However, an individual e-scooter claim is typically more expensive than a cycling claim, with the average cost of the former $2931 this year, compared to $2069 for the latter.

The total and average cost per claim for e-scooter-related injuries has also been roughly trending up over the past four years.

Police at the scene following the accident. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
A woman was critically injured after being hit on a Lime Scooter in 2019. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Those aged in their 20s made the most claims.

Riders aged 20-24 made 1887 claims over the past four years, while those aged 25-29 were the next highest group, lodging 1651 over the same time.

The two next highest groups were 30-34-year-olds and 15-19-year-olds.

There were also 108 claims lodged by those aged over 80 over the past four years.

That included 17 claims this year by those aged 80-84 and 12 by those aged 85 and over, suggesting some may not have been riding e-scooters themselves but instead been hit by those who were.

The ACC pointed out its data was not a comprehensive list of injuries suffered by those using or hit by e-scooters.

As a no-fault scheme, it relies on information written down by those making claims and this information can be recorded in a number of different ways by the injured person.

Therefore in order to find the claims, ACC had to use a range of key words, such as "e-scooter", "battery powered scooter", "flamingo scooter", "neuron scooter", "beam scooter" and "green scooter".

ACC injury prevention leader James Whitaker said e-scooters were a convenient way to get around town, but it was important for riders to look after themselves and others they shared the footpath with.

"Most injuries are preventable by taking a moment to ‘have a hmmm’ and think about what could go wrong," he said.

"If you are going to use an e-scooter, be sure to ease your way into it, don’t go full throttle straight away, wear a helmet, and don’t mix e-scootering with alcohol."