If you have teen-aged children or grandchildren, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a lot about hoverboards lately – and hoverboard safety – since hoverboards were one of the most popular gifts for the 2015 holiday season.
In case you’re not familiar with them, a hoverboard is a self-balancing, motorized scooter with a wheel on each end. Think of the old Segway, but without handlebars.
If you’re thinking that riding on a motorized scooter without a way to balance yourself sounds dangerous, you’re right. And with a price tag anywhere from $200 to $1500, these toys are expensive to boot.
Hoverboard Injuries Abound
Since the holiday season, doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and urgent care facilities have been inundated with hoverboard injuries that range from sprains and broken bones to head injuries. The Philadelphia area has seen its fair share of these injuries of late, with one doctor at Jefferson University Hospital calling the situation a “hoverboard epidemic” in this 6abc Action News article
While a fair number of injuries should be expected considering the nature of the device, there’s another major issue with hoverboards that you may not have bargained for when buying this pricey toy for your child – because of an undetermined defect, hoverboards regularly catch on fire, possibly while they are in use and especially while their batteries are being charged. This is a scary but all too familiar hoverboard safety issue.
Putting Public Safety – and Hoverboard Safety – First
Image Courtesy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
The Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC) is currently conducting investigations to determine the safety of hoverboards and to try to figure out why there have been so many incidents where the units have caught on fire. The Commission’s chairman has cautioned consumers that there are currently no hoverboard safety standards in place for these products and that while battery packs may carry a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification, there is currently no UL certification for hoverboard devices themselves.
Delta, American, and United airlines have all disallowed hoverboards from being carried on their aircraft because of their potential to catch fire. To the dismay of students, many colleges and universities have also banned hoverboards from their campuses.
The CPSC has applauded the actions of Amazon.com, which has voluntarily stopped selling hoverboards and is offering customers a full refund on any hoverboard they’ve purchased from its site. The Commission is encouraging other major retailers to follow suit, but considering the popularity and expense of these devices, that may not happen any time soon.
Know the Risks of Owning and/or Using a Hoverboard
It should go without saying that hoverboard use is a risky activity and should be approached as such.
Hoverboards can reach speeds of up to twelve miles per hour. That might not sound terribly fast, but breaking a fall from a height of three to six feet can cause serious injury at that speed. Consumer Reports
has found that even small obstructions in a rider’s path — small sticks or debris, a slightly rough or uneven surface, or just a small pebble — can cause the rider to quickly and severely change his or her path and be thrown from the device.
Injuries to hoverboard users can occur virtually anywhere on the body because of the nature of the falls users are experiencing. Sprains and lacerations are common, as are crushed fingers. Wrist, arm, hip, leg, ankle, and back injuries are on the uptick in emergency rooms across the United States due to the popularity of hoverboards. Even head injuries and concussions are not an uncommon injury associated with hoverboard use.
For those who choose to use hoverboards in spite of the risks, the CPSC recommends wearing a skateboard helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards while operating them. When you are learning to ride, make sure someone is there to spot you. Keep in mind that these precautions are not just for children; adults may feel overconfident and may attempt to “try out” the devices before allowing their children to use them without taking safety precautions. Despite what it may say on the packaging or in the instructions, don’t use a hoverboard near or on a road or sidewalk.
Fire-safety experts are urging consumers to charge hoverboards away from combustible materials in an open area and not to leave charging hoverboards unattended. They even recommend keeping a fire extinguisher handy when you are charging in case the device bursts into flames. Taking heed of these hoverboard safety precautions can prevent injuries and damage from fires.
Who Is Responsible for Hoverboard Injuries?
Hoverboard lawsuits are a relatively new occurrence in the courtroom, but they are gaining traction. Users are beginning to file lawsuits against manufacturers and retailers for injuries and fires, and precedents involving hoverboards are yet to be set. If you have been injured while using a hoverboard, it is important to have experienced legal counsel on your side.
It is clear that despite the claims made on some hoverboard packaging, these devices should not be operated near or on roads. In fact, a hoverboard user in the UK was killed doing just that. If you have been injured on a hoverboard whose packaging claims that it is safe and easy to use, you may have a case based on false manufacturer claims.
Anticipating lawsuits, manufacturers are urging consumers to read and follow all safety instructions, to wear safety gear, and use to hoverboards with care. Some manufacturers caution that their products should not be used by children under a certain age.
If you have been burned, have lost property due to a fire, or have sustained any injuries at all while using or charging a hoverboard, please call Donaghue & Labrum immediately to schedule a consultation. You may be entitled to reimbursement for medical expenses and damages for loss of income, pain and suffering, and other issues related to hoverboard use. This is an emerging area for litigation and should be handled by a law firm that has argued and won hundreds of personal injury cases in the past.