E-bikes operate like regular bicycles except that a rechargeable battery motorizes them.   E-scooters are motorized scooters that, like e-bikes, are powered by rechargeable batteries.  E-bikes and e-scooters are a great way to commute, exercise, save money, have fun, and avoid traffic and parking hassles. 

As such, e-bike and e-scooter use has grown exponentially in recent years.  Rental e-scooters are so common in San Diego that the city recently enacted new laws governing their use.

The problem is that e-bike and e-scooter batteries have been catching on fire.  The battery fires have caused deaths, serious injuries, and devastating property damage. 

How Serious are These Battery Fires? 

E-bike and e-scooter battery fires start quickly and without warning.  When a battery fails, it may swell, overheat, ignite, or explode.  The flames spread rapidly, creating a fully formed fire within seconds.  The battery sometimes explodes so violently that it blows down walls between rooms and apartments.  The fires are hazardous in close living quarters like apartments and condos due to the dense population and limited escape routes.

E-bike and e-scooter battery fires have reached a crisis level in the U.S. and worldwide.  In New York City, e-bike and e-scooter batteries are catching fire four times a week and causing irreplaceable destruction.  Lyft stopped its e-bike program after a battery fire in San Francisco. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled specific e-bike models in response to the crisis.  It also issued a letter to over 2,000 manufacturers requiring them to comply with strict U.L. safety standards.      

What to Do if Injured by a Battery Fire

If injured in a battery fire or explosion, take these steps to protect yourself and your legal rights:

Get to safety

Securing your safety is always the top priority.  Get to a safe place and call for help.

Call 911 and report the fire and your injuries  

Reporting the fire and your injuries is crucial for your case because it documents the incident.  The responding police and fire departments will write what they believe caused the fire and any citations issued.

Seek treatment for your injuries immediately and continue as directed by your doctor 

Do not delay, and do not stop treatment early.  If you postpone or cancel treatment prematurely, the insurance companies will argue that the alleged injuries were not so severe as to warrant damages.

Save all of your medical records and bills and keep them in a safe place 

Lost or missing documents can harm your case.  Keep accurate records of all medical treatment you receive.

Document everything you lost due to the fire  

Write down a list of everything you own that was damaged or lost due to the fire.

Obtain reports from the police and fire departments who responded to the incident 

If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer can do this for you.  Police and fire reports serve as official documentation of the incident.  Ask the police and fire departments how to obtain a report of the incident.

Contact a proven personal injury lawyer as soon as possible 

Insurance companies pay more to the clients of lawyers who have a proven track record of winning personal injury trials.  The best way to protect your legal rights is to contact a proven personal injury lawyer immediately.  Doing so will significantly impact the amount of money you can recover from your injuries, even if you have already talked to an insurance company.

Types of Fire-Related Injuries

Battery fires may cause burns, smoke inhalation, and other potentially deadly injuries.

Burn injuries 

Fires and explosions can leave survivors with severe burn injuries, among the most painful and debilitating injuries a person can experience.  The medical processes for treating burns can be extensive and at astronomical cost.  Scarring and disfigurement from burns can change how someone looks and severely limit their mobility and ability to do things.  As such, burns can be catastrophic injuries that cause mental and emotional trauma.  Burn victims may require psychological therapy to recover from the trauma.

The law classifies burn injuries according to the source of the burn: 

  • Thermal burns are from flame, radiation, or excessive heat from a fire, steam, hot liquids, or hot objects.
  • Chemical burns are from acids, bases, and other chemicals.
  • Electrical burns are from electrical currents and lightning.
  • Light burns are from intense light sources (such as the sun) and ultraviolet rays.
  • Radiation burns are from nuclear sources and ultraviolet light.

The law measures the severity of the burn by degrees:

  • First-degree burns are superficial injuries that involve only the outer layer of skin.  They are the most common and most minor of all burns.  The skin is reddened and painful.  The burn will heal on its own without much scarring.  The skin may peel and be temporarily discolored.
  • Second-degree burns pass through the first layer of skin and damage the second layer underneath.  The burn does not pass through the skin to the underlying tissues.  The skin is painful, red, blistered, and splotchy.  The burn may take weeks to heal and leave scarring.  Second-degree burns are severe if they cover a large portion of the body, such as more than 10%.
  • Third-degree burns are the most serious of all burns.  The burn passes through both layers of skin and may reach the fat, bones, muscles, and tendons underneath.  The burned area may be charred black, brown, or white.  Third-degree burns destroy the nerve endings and may require skin grafts.  Recovery is extensive, and thick scars form.

Several other factors influence the severity of the burn and, therefore, the amount the victim can recover.

  • Source of the burn: Chemical and electrical burns often require specialized treatment at a burn center, which can be very costly.
  • Degree of the burn: The higher the degree of the burn, the more infection risk.  Burn injuries, in general, are particularly vulnerable to infection, which can cause serious health complications.
  • The extent of burned surface areas: Burns are more serious if they cover a large portion of the body.
  • Age of the patient: Elderly burn victims often have more severe reactions, slower recoveries, extended hospital stays, and more complications.  Young children are at higher risk of dying from their injuries.  They may suffer permanent disfigurement that lasts their whole life.
  • Body regions burned: Burns to the face can change how a person looks, affect their vision, and impede their airways.  Burns to the feet and hands can restrict the movement of fingers and toes.  Burns to the groin or genitals can make a person lose their ability to have children and be intimate with their partner.  Burns to the airways can make it difficult or impossible to breathe.
  • Pre-existing conditions: Burn victims with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, respiratory illness, or other disorders are at greater risk of dying or developing severe health complications from the burn.

Burn rehabilitation may require extensive treatment, including skin grafts, pain management, complex wound care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cosmetic reconstruction, psychological counseling, nutritional counseling, and other treatment. 

Burn rehabilitation may require treatment from specialists, such as plastic surgeons, psychologists/psychiatrists, infectious disease experts, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, and other specialized professionals.

Smoke inhalation

Smoke inhalation is often the primary cause of death or permanent injury when it comes to fires.  Smoke inhalation can permanently damage the lungs, respiratory system, vocal cords, and brain.  Longer exposure time to smoke is associated with more severe injury.  Smoke can travel fast and reach the victim before the fire becomes a substantial threat.  Smoke inhalation can cause asthma, lung disease, heart failure, and many other long-term illnesses.

Wrongful death 

If someone has died because of a battery fire, the victim’s family may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.  Such claims may include loss of financial support, medical costs related to the accident, pain, and suffering, lost companionship, funeral and burial expenses, and other damages.

What Causes E-Bike Battery Fires?

E-bikes and e-scooters often use lithium-ion batteries, which can catch on fire due to the following:


Overcharging the battery can overheat it, resulting in a fire or explosion.  The older the battery, the longer it takes to recharge it fully.  Recharging can take up to 8 hours, making it difficult for owners to monitor the batteries the whole time they are charging.

Damaged batteries

Even well-made batteries can become dangerous if they are damaged or severely weathered.  Normal wear and tear from the elements can damage the battery and cause it to become hazardous.  Physical abuse like dropping, shaking, or puncturing the battery may damage it.  Also, exposing the battery to excessively high or low temperatures can cause damage. 

Refurbished batteries

New batteries are costly, with some costing over $500.  As such, buying a cheaper, refurbished battery is a great temptation.  Refurbished batteries are not subject to the same quality controls as new batteries.  Reassembling the batteries may make them dangerous if not reassembled properly.  Used batteries must be recycled, as throwing them in the trash is illegal in California

Low-quality parts 

Cheap batteries with low-quality parts are at higher risk of catching on fire.  Low-quality parts are more likely to fail, causing leaks and other malfunctions that set the battery on fire.  High-quality parts are critical to e-bike battery safety.

Charger issues 

Using unofficial or poor-quality chargers can damage the battery or cause it to overcharge, potentially causing a fire.  Mismatched chargers may not turn off automatically when fully charged, heating the battery until it explodes.

Inadequate warnings or instructions 

Makers and sellers of e-bikes and their components must warn about fire risks like excessive battery charging.  E-bike suppliers may be liable for failure to warn about such dangers.

Manufacturing defects 

A manufacturing defect is when a mistake in making the battery causes it to deviate from its intended design.  Manufacturing defects include contaminated materials, improperly arranged components, and faulty wiring. 

Design flaws 

Defective design is when the battery’s structure causes it to be dangerous even though it conforms to the manufacturer’s specifications.  E-bike battery producers must design the batteries to strict quality standards for safety purposes.  Producers may be liable for poorly designed and uncertified batteries.

Using a battery near a fire or heat source 

Using a battery near a fire or heat source can overheat it and cause it to explode. 

Compensation for Victims of Battery Fires

Victims of e-bike and e-scooter battery fires may recover for their past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income and income potential, lost enjoyment of life, emotional distress, property damage, mental anguish, scarring and disfigurement, and other damages. 

Burn victims may require extensive treatment, physical therapy, and psychological care for the rest of their lives.  Severe burns may make home modification necessary.  As such, battery fires can easily cause millions of dollars of damage to their victims.   

Proving burn-related damages typically requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced lawyer and expert witness testimony from doctors, surgeons, physical therapists, vocational experts, economic experts, and other specialists.

Who Is Liable for E-Bike Battery Fires?

Liability for e-bike battery fires depends on what caused the fire.  Manufacturers may be liable for manufacturing and design defects.  Parts suppliers may be responsible for faulty components.  Companies that rent or sell e-bikes may be liable for distributing defective products.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, one or more insurance companies may be involved.  As such, it typically requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced lawyer to assign liability in these types of cases.


UL Safety Tips for Lithium-Ion Batteries

U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Burns