You’ve seen them in grocery and big-box stores – people shopping while riding a motorized shopping cart supplied by the store. While these scooters are great for those with mobility issues, they can endanger other shoppers.
Those driving the cart can strike other customers, knocking them down and potentially causing serious injuries. The driver could lose control, or just not be paying attention, among other reasons.
Depending on how serious the injuries are, and your ability to recover, you could be eligible for a substantial settlement or court verdict.
How Motorized Shopping Scooters Can Cause an Injury
Store mobility scooters can weigh from 200 to 400 lbs. Plus, you have the weight of the person on the scooter. That’s a lot of weight, which can result in serious injury on impact.
Scooter accidents are caused by a number of reasons:
- The physical and mental capability of the person operating the device. These can include reduced eyesight, diminished capacity due to medication, or alcohol, and limited physical movement (can’t turn around to view when backing up), etc.
- The driver loses control of the vehicle.
- The driver misjudges the stopping distance. The stopping distance of these scooters is around four feet. If the person riding stops too late, an accident will occur.
According to wheelchair and scooter repair services, mobility scooter drivers are involved in more than four crashes every week. And while their top speed for store scooters is usually only around two miles-per-hour, they can still cause major injuries.
There are three main parts of the motorized shopping cart that can cause injury: the back of the scooter, the basket, and the bumper underneath it. This means that the cart can actually hit your body in two locations: your torso and your legs.
When a basket hits your torso, you have a great chance of falling.
This can lead to a number of injuries, including:
- A fractured wrist, arm, or ankle
- Shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff injuries
- Fractured hips
- Cracked pelvis
- Head wounds, including a fractured skull
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
In some cases, the scooter driver may not hit you. They may run into a stack of merchandise, which then hits you. A few cans of beans on the head can cause a lot of damage, or other items rolling around a grocery store floor can cause you to trip and fall.
What Should You Do if You Are Injured by a Motorized Shopping Cart?
If you’re able, it’s important to get the following information at the time of the accident. Getting the right information is essential for your insurance claim or court case.
Keep in mind that you have three years to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the accident resulted in death, the limit is two years.
Follow these steps:
- Seek medical care: If you are seriously injured, call 911 or ask a bystander or the manager to call. The paramedics will treat you, and if necessary, take you to the local hospital emergency room. If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. See your primary care provider, go to the emergency room or visit an urgent care center. Be sure to tell your medical caregiver when, where, and how you were injured.
- Call for the manager or the police: If you fall and can’t get up, ask the nearest person to call the manager or the police. It’s important for someone in authority to see the scene exactly as it was at the time you fell.
- Complete store or police incident reports: Most supermarkets and chain grocery stores require their managers to file an incident report with the corporate headquarters. The report will include the date and time of the accident, the causes, and the contact information of the person who hit you.
- Look for witnesses: Family or friends may make good witnesses, but independent eyewitnesses are even better. Do your best to get names and contact information from any independent witnesses. Ask them to write down on any piece of paper where you can reach them and what they saw.
- Take photos: These days just about everyone has a cell phone with a camera and video capabilities. Use your phone to capture the scene exactly as it is. Be sure your phone shows the date and time of the pictures and videos. Also, ask witnesses if they took pictures or have a video of what happened.
- Look and ask for nearby surveillance cameras: Look around for store cameras. Most supermarkets have surveillance cameras, and they may have one in the location where you were hit.
If there is, ask the manager to show you the footage that includes your injury. Ask them to preserve any video from before you were hit, during, and after. Video footage before the accident can show the actions of the scooter operator before they hit you.
- Request insurance information: Get the name. Address, phone, and homeowners or renter’s insurance information from the person who hit you. While the scooter is motorized, any accident with it is likely not covered by the driver’s auto insurance policy.
- Keep medical records: Keep and collect copies of your medical bills and records. Also copy all your receipts for out-of-pocket costs like medicine, doctor’s office parking lot fees, and other related expenses. Also, track your mileage to medical and therapy appointments.
- Track lost wages: If you’ve had to miss work for doctors’ visits or therapy, ask your employer for a statement of your lost wages, including lost opportunities for overtime, and how much vacation or sick leave you had to use while recovering.
Proper Due Diligence for Using Motorized Scooters
Those who ride motorized scooters need to practice due diligence. Due diligence is an action that is considered reasonable for people to be expected to take in order to keep themselves or others and their property safe.
This means that the driver of the motorized scooter should know how to operate it in all circumstances such as backing up, turning, and driving through crowded aisles. It also means knowing how to safely stop and do the expected things to avoid an accident, as well as paying attention while they’re driving.
If the driver fails to drive a motorized cart safely and it results in an accident, this means the driver was negligent.
Because the scooter isn’t being driven in the street means that the usual “rules of the road” don’t apply, but ordinary negligence rules still do.
Negligence is the failure to exercise ordinary care under the
circumstances, that is, the failure to exercise “that degree of care which under the same or similar circumstances, the great mass of mankind would ordinarily, exercise.” The standard of ordinary care is an objective standard; it is the care that would be exercised by a reasonable actor in the same circumstances.
Motorized grocery store drivers who directly cause an accident through negligence carry the responsibility for that accident.
How Are Motorized Shopping Carts Different Than Vehicles
Because motorized shopping carts are not licensed to operate on the roads, any accidents caused by these carts are not covered by auto insurance policies. Coverage would come from renters or homeowners’ insurance.
A homeowners’ or renters’ policy usually covers negligent behavior no matter where it happens.
Who Is Responsible for Paying for Your Injuries and Medical Bills?
The answer to this question is, it depends.
- If the accident was caused by liquid or something on the floor that wasn’t cleaned up by the store in a timely fashion, the liability could rest with the store, unless someone witnessed the motorized cart driver deliberately driving into whatever is on the floor.
- If the accident was caused by a defect in the cart itself, the store could be liable for providing a defective or improperly maintained cart.
- If there were no other hazards present at the time, the responsibility would rest with the scooter driver.
Trust the Attorneys at Murphy & Prachthauser With Your Unique Cases
Trying to gather all the evidence you need and talking with insurance companies can be a frustrating and scary proposition. It’s hard to know what to say to whom, and the tactics to get the money you need to heal properly and support yourself while doing it.
Let us take the hard work off your shoulders. We’ll work with the insurance companies to get you the maximum settlement and represent you in court if needed.
At Murphy & Prachthauser we practice personal injury law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case you would like to speak to a lawyer about, get a free case evaluation now and get an experienced team of lawyers working on your behalf.