The moments before the crash that nearly cost Allyson Medeiros his life remain a bit of a blur.
Here’s what the 32-year-old Chicago tattoo artist does remember: He was biking home from work one afternoon last month. As he pedaled down a leafy, residential block in the bike lane, he looked up to see someone on an electric scooter rushing toward him against the flow of traffic.
The collision seconds later knocked Medeiros unconscious and spattered the sidewalk in blood, leaving him with deep lacerations, multiple broken bones in his face, missing teeth, permanent scarring and a dangerous amount of air in his chest cavity. After paramedics took him to a hospital, he spent the night in a trauma center.
Nearly one month and several surgeries later, Medeiros has metal plates in his face and his jaw is wired shut, forcing him to eat with a syringe. But recovery, mounting medical bills and a lack of health insurance aren’t his only problems. The cyclist doesn’t know the identity of the scooter rider who injured him before fleeing the scene. Nor does he know which one of the city’s 10 brands of e-scooters the mystery rider was operating when the crash occurred.
Although e-scooter riders make up the bulk of injuries associated with the devices, according to injury statistics, hit-and-run victims have emerged in numerous cities across the country, and their injuries are often severe. Medeiros was probably the first e-scooter hit-and-run victim in Chicago, which had kicked off a controversial four-month-long scooter pilot program just five days before the crash. Already, a rash of e-scooter injuries and vandalism have flooded social media, a sequence that has been repeated almost everywhere the devices appear.
“I am extremely happy and grateful for what happened compared to what could have happened and even more grateful to everyone that is being so helpful and loving with me right now,” Medeiros, who remains unable to conduct interviews, wrote on his Instagram feed after the crash.
Medeiros’s lawyer, Bryant Greening — the co-founder of LegalRideshare, a firm that specializes in cases involving ride-hailing drivers and passengers — said he intends to uncover the identity of the individual who injured his client. This week, he filed a petition in court seeking the location and rider data from all e-scooter companies that were operating in Chicago at the time of the accident.
Greening said his office resorted to a petition after e-scooter companies refused to cooperate with his requests for assistance and he began fearing crucial evidence from his client’s crash could be lost.
“One of the reasons we filed with the court as quickly as we did was to ensure that we put the companies on notice that litigation is pending and it would be against the law for anything to disappear,” said Greening, who’s convinced that the data-rich tech companies almost certainly know if one of their vehicles was involved in his client’s accident.
“This is a very sad situation in which a totally innocent person fell victim to a negligent rider and now a cowardly company is refusing to step forward,” he added.
The struggle to retrieve rider information from e-scooter companies after hit-and-run accidents has vexed victims ever since e-scooters began appearing around the country last summer. The results of those efforts are mixed and often vary by location, and many victims claim that scooter companies refuse to return their calls or provide them with data that could be used to track down reckless riders.
Cases can be further complicated when e-scooters are used by underage riders who either swiped someone else’s vehicle or used a parent’s credit card information and license to rent one, potentially blurring liability in an accident.
In October, multiple injured pedestrians joined a class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing Lime and Bird (two of the world’s largest scooter companies) as well as other e-scooter companies of “gross negligence” and “aiding and abetting assault.”
Responding to the allegations, Bird said cars “remain the greatest threat to commuters.”
Scooter companies, including Bird, claim they have detailed maps showing the location and history of their vehicles and, in some cases, they’ve already turned that information over to authorities.
In January, police tracked down an alleged bank robber in Austin after surveillance video showed the individual fleeing on a Jump scooter. Because Jump is owned by Uber, detectives sent the ride-hailing giant a court order requesting geolocation data and user information for the scooter, police said.
After receiving the court order, police said, Uber provided investigators with the alleged robber’s contact information — a phone number and email address — as well as a credit card number. Just over a month after the crime occurred, police arrested Luca Mangiarano and charged the 19-year-old with robbery by threat.
Chicago’s e-scooter pilot program is limited to 2,500 vehicles, a relatively small number compared with Los Angeles, which has more than 25,000, according to CBS affiliate KTLA. The limited number of devices in Chicago is why Greening thinks it won’t be hard for a company to pinpoint the vehicle that injured his client.
A GoFundMe page for Medeiros has raised just over $12,000, but Greening said his client’s bills increase with each passing day. If the scooter rider in question is identified, he said, a personal-injury claim seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering is likely. His firm also plans to cooperate with police if there’s interest in criminal charges.
Before any of that can happen, he said, they’ll need the cooperation of the scooter companies and the personal data they have access to.
“We don’t think we’re asking for anything outrageous or going on a fishing expedition by any means,” Greening said. “We believe we’re seeking targeted information to help us locate the individual who caused Allyson’s injuries and nothing more.”