A Santa Monica woman says she was badly injured while working as a mechanic for Bird Scooters when the brakes failed on one of the devices, sending her flying down the sidewalk. Fahin Kamrany says she had already repaired two birds on the morning of May 18 when she got a notification of another broken Bird scooter nearby. She said at the time, a visual inspection and a test drive were the only ways to determine the cause of a malfunction.
“It’s a guessing game what’s wrong with it because the information is not given to us,” 56-year-old Kamrany said in an interview with the Daily Press, who says users flag broken Birds for repairs and notify the company of the reason. “At the time of the accident, Bird had the information.”
Kamrany was already careening forward when she realized the Bird couldn’t stop. She fell off, breaking her arm, collarbone and hitting her head, an injury that required a trip to the emergency room and six staples. Mechanics are not employees of Bird, but work as independent contractors after watching a dozen instructional videos on how to repair the scooters, Kamrany said.
Kamrany’s attorney, personal injury lawyer Catherine Lerer, says she is in the process of filing a claim with Bird on the incident. As riders fly through busy intersections and quiet neighborhoods, Lerer says she’s been inundated with calls from riders, drivers, and pedestrians involved in Bird-related crashes. In April, electric scooter competitor Lime launched it’s own dockless program here.
A spokesperson for Bird did not respond to questions about the incident before the Daily Press went to print.
Lerer says the city of Santa Monica could also face lawsuits from riders injured by potholes or gaps in sidewalks, even though California law stipulates electric vehicles belong on the street. Typically, to win a lawsuit the victim must be able to prove the property owner knew or should have known conditions were dangerous.
“When these accidents occur, attorneys are looking for as many pockets and the deepest pockets they can find and there’s no deeper pocket than the city,” Lerer said.
Santa Monica has designated inspectors who earmark broken or cracked sidewalks for repair. So far, no one has sued the city, according to public information officer Constance Farrell.
In May, Santa Monica police officers issued 366 tickets to electric scooter riders for various violations, including riding without a helmet or on the sidewalk. That number represents less than half of the 809 stops involving the devices.
Since the crash, Kamrany says the company has begun notifying mechanics of reported issues before they give the devices a test run. Users can report a list of mechanical issues including “motor,” “fender,” “noise,” “flat tire,” “headlights,” and “brakes don’t work.”
“They are sort of figuring it out as they go,” said Kamrany of the company. “And I’m collateral damage because they’re still learning.”
At press time, the City Council was still debating a pilot program to regulate the scooters that would limit the number of devices and require the companies to share usage data with the city.