One of the “hottest” holiday gifts last year were hoverboards; those two-wheel devices with no handles. Riders stand on them and travel while standing, but hold on to nothing. The hoverboard has begun to lose its appeal due to some pretty bad fires and injuries. A Wired magazine report last month noted that hoverboard fires were on the rise and provided some answers to this worrisome situation which we will share in this post. Hoverboard owners are concerned that their homes could be lost or damaged or family members could be seriously injured by these seemingly “fun” rides. The rash of fire incidents around the country has also brought this device to the attention of tech geeks and gadget enthusiasts alike.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission is now paying close attention to the situation and has recently issued a press release regarding the fires. They are warning that consumers cannot be assured that fires won’t happen even when there is a UL mark on the label. They are continuing to work on helping the public protect their homes and personal safety.
Recently in Louisiana a home was burnt to the ground when a Hoverboard exploded. Another incident with one of these two-wheelers, required the evacuation of a shopping mall when the device began to burn. Other examples of the board blowing up or seemingly spontaneously catching on fire include those in which the board is plugged in and charging and those in which is not. Unsuspecting owners leave their boards to charge and return home to find a burning home.
The culprit appears to be the lithium-ion batteries. The same or similar batteries that run other devices, but these boards are a different story. The technical explanations are outlined essentially as follows.
As explained in the Wired piece, the experts note that the problem with the less expensive batteries has to do with the circuitry. Keeping the flow of energy while separating components that can short circuit or become “overcharged” if they come in contact with one another. And there is no really good evidence yet as to which brands are safer than others. Quality seems to be a major factor in these fires. Enthusiasts have been attracted to lower-priced hover boards, but they apparently have lower-priced and lower-quality Lithium-Ion batteries. With the way these boards are used, the less expensive batteries are more susceptible to becoming a potential fire disaster.
Fire hazards are only part of the story. People are getting hurt when they fall off the boards. Emergency room visits have been rising since the holidays. There is a concern by the CPSC that the design may be inherently problematic. The risk of falls and serious injuries is more than evident at this point. They are concerned about the fact that the falls can be serious from acceleration to simply falling off the board. Everything from brain injuries to shoulder and hand injuries are rampant. CPSC is recommending the use of helmets and pads. Many schools have banned their use which is applauded by the CPSC.
Google the words “hoverboard fire” and you will find stories about homes that have been burned due to these devices. Google “hoverboard injuries” and you will find many stories about those who have been seriously injured or harmed while riding these devices. For those of us whose work involves consumer protection, once there are several incidents with a product we begin to question whether a product is defective and/or dangerous to the public. It takes time and expertise to determine the causes and to take action against the responsible parties if there is injury or property damage.
We will continue to monitor the hoverboard situation. If you have been injured using a hoverboard or if you have experienced property damage from a related fire, contact Scholle Law. We will evaluate the situation and advise you of your legal rights. We are here to fight for you and help you recover from your injuries.