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Hoverboards Are Popular...And Dangerous

Enrique Flores

The end of 2015 popularized “hoverboards,” a mode of transportation much like an automated skateboard. No, this isn’t the hoverboard of Back-to-the-Future lore; it doesn’t truly hover. Instead, it moves along on two wheels and relies on an intricate system of electronic logic to sense balance and directional signals, which the hoverboard then follows. The excitement over the trend was hampered initially by cost, often between $500 – $1000. As the price came down, particularly through major sales for holidays, the demand for the devices skyrocketed. For about the same cost as an X-box, someone could purchase the newest and most exciting “toy” on the block.

Falls, Spills, and Traffic Accidents

Unfortunately, the hoverboard is not exactly a toy. The required skill and balance necessary to make operation safe is much higher than most people expect for your typical toy. On social media, videos of minor accidents became popular as people first attempted (and failed) to ride their new gifts. Even Mike Tyson got into the hoverboard action, with a video ending with what appears to be a painful fall.

It turns out that hoverboard accidents aren’t really all that funny. Hospitals began to see patients who needed treatment for broken bones, gashes requiring stitches, and serious brain injuries caused by head trauma occurring during a hoverboard fall. Hospitals around the world are reporting these injuries, including brain hemorrhages that leave patients with potentially long recoveries.

Even worse, the use of such new modes of transport is causing problems and confusion when used on public roadways. a tragic turn of events in October 2015, a six-year old boy in Dubai was killed while riding a hoverboard. While riding the device, which can travel nearly 10 miles per hour, he was hit by a car. In early December in London, a fifteen-year old boy out on an errand to retrieve milk for his mother, reportedly fell off his hoverboard and into the path of an oncoming bus and was dragged 200 feet. He died at the scene.

Fires, Explosions, Burns, and Property Damage

As the use of hoverboards became more widespread globally, reports of fires and explosions began to arise. People are dealing with serious burns and property damage caused by the devices catching fire and/or exploding. In one case in Louisiana, a family alleges that their son’s new hoverboard exploding, littering their home with burning debris and resulting in the loss of their home to the ensuing fire.

Early indicators seem to show a problem across hoverboard brands, with the fires occurring either while charging or in use. The suspected causes of the fires and explosions are being traced back to cheap lithium-ion batteries in the hoverboards.

Amidst concern for public safety, and with the first lawsuits being filed against against hoverboard manufacturers and distributors, major companies are banning the transport or sale of the devices. Airlines have forbidden hoverboards, and major corporations like Target and Amazon have largely banned their sale on their websites and store locations. Amazon is requesting manufacturers provide proof of compliance with applicable safety standards relative to batteries and chargers. Those who have complied still have products on Amazon’s virtual product shelves. In addition, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has opened a “priority investigation” on the device fires. They hope to provide the public with information on the safety of hoverboards as soon as possible.

If you have been injured or sustained property loss due to defects with a hoverboard or any other product in your home, the attorneys at Wagner Reese would like to discuss your product liability claim. Call our Indianapolis-based experts now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.

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