Hoverboard injuries - Can you make a claim?

Hoverboards have seen an exponential growth in popularity in recent months, and it is estimated that around 500,000 were bought as Christmas gifts.

However, it is illegal to ride them anywhere other than on private land with the owner's permission. In addition, major retailers suspended sales after checks by National Trading Standards found the majority of them to be defective.

Riding in a public place

Developed from the Segway, a hoverboard is a self-balancing electric scooter. Portable and powered by rechargeable batteries, it consists of 2 wheels arranged either side of 2 small platforms on which the rider stands. A gyroscope determines the pitch or balance of the machine, microprocessors monitor the direction the rider is leaning and manage power output to keep him balanced.

Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 in England and Wales and section 129(5) Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 in Scotland places a "penalty on persons committing nuisances by riding on footpaths, &c."

The 180 year old act cites the offence as "any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers". This includes riding a hoverboard on a pavement.

Using them on a public road is also prohibited.

The Department for Transport and DVLA consider self-balancing personal transporters such as Segways and hoverboards to be motor vehicles within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act 1988. As such, drivers require a driving licence and third party insurance.

But because hoverboards cannot be licensed for use on a road, they do not come within the categories of vehicle covered by a driving licence. Any person using a hoverboard on a road will be not be driving in accordance with a driving licence and therefore be in breach of section 87 and section 143 Road Traffic Act 1988.

Aside from being illegal to ride in a public place, hoverboards are difficult to control properly and may veer off course. Doing so may bring the rider into collision with pedestrians and other road or pavement users, causing injury to people and damage to property.

Anyone sustaining injury or damage to property in this way may be able to bring a claim for compensation against the rider.

Product safety

When National Trading Standards found that 32,000 of the 38,000 tested hoverboards were unsafe they detained the boards and ordered a product recall of those on sale or already sold.

There were numerous concerns including faulty cut-off switches that were failing to stop the battery from continuing to charge. This defect could cause hoverboards to overheat, explode or catch fire, with serious consequences.

As well as not meeting rigorous European standards for manufacture, some hoverboards may also have design defects making them unreasonably dangerous to ride, even on private land. Where there are inadequate instructions or warning about their use, riders may sustain accidents, injuring themselves or others.

Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 manufacturers have a duty to ensure that their products are safe. This duty extends to distributors such as shops and wholesalers who should not sell any products that are known to be unsafe.

Although major retailers immediately complied with the recall and offered full refunds to those who had already purchased the product, some hoverboards may remain on sale or in the purchaser's possession.

Retailers who failed to recall the hoverboards may be held liable for any injuries caused by the faulty product.

Hoverboard-related injury claims

A number of complaints have already been made following fire damage caused by defective hoverboard batteries. In December 2015, a teenager was fatally injured while riding a hoverboard on the road.

If the popularity of these devices continues to rise, it is likely that 2016 will see a similar rise in related defective product injury claims.

Anyone sustaining injury or damage to or loss of property caused by a faulty hoverboard may be able to make a claim for compensation. The amount that may be claimed will depend on the harm sustained, including burn injuries arising from defective batteries, fractures and bruising.

See also:

Burn injury compensation claims

Fracture injury compensation claims

Defective product injury compensation claims

(Image credit: urbanwheel.co)

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher