The Onewheel is a motorized skateboard with a single wheel released in 2015 by Future Motion, Inc. Since that time, the company has come out with a few different versions, including the Onewheel Pint and the Onewheel XR. Advertised as a fun and eco-friendly short-range vehicle, Onewheels have spent their time on the market gathering a reputation for crashes, nosedives, injuries, and deaths.
Below, we’ll go into more detail on these Onewheel accidents and the company’s responsibilities to its customers. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a Onewheel accident, and you’d prefer to speak directly with a Onewheel accident lawyer in Georgia, reach out at any time for a free consultation.
The Onewheel Nosedive Is a Phenomenon Unique to the Onewheel Design
There are many ways to get hurt while using a skateboard, or any kind of vehicle, and not all of them can be prevented at the design and manufacture level. A huge portion of the serious accidents associated with Onewheel devices, however, follow a pattern specific to the Onewheel design.
The Onewheel has a feature called “pushback” that causes the board to lift upward in front as a warning to the rider when it is approaching the limits of its physical capabilities, whether in terms of speed, weight, incline, or a combination. Once the device senses that it is getting dangerously close to these limits, it shuts off. This wouldn’t be a big problem on a regular motorized scooter, moped, or other comparable device, but the Onewheel has self-balancing technology that requires power. Instead of simply cutting off additional forward momentum and letting the user coast to a stop, the board lurches violently forward into the ground as soon as the motor stops, according to the reports of injured users.
Onewheels are rated for speeds of up to 19 miles per hour and rumored to be capable of more, so a sudden forward lurch can easily cause very severe injuries.
Many Onewheel enthusiasts who continue to use their boards say they are aware of the Onewheel nosedive phenomenon, but believe they can keep their risks acceptably low by respecting the pushback. However, there have been reports of Onewheel shutdowns that happened without warning, or after a warning that could easily be mistaken for normal resistance, or even as a result of riding downhill with a full battery.
According to one of the resulting lawsuits, this last type of shutdown is intended to protect the battery from damage caused by overcharging, because riding downhill recharges the battery. It’s not clear why subjecting the rider to a sudden and dangerous stop would be necessary to cut off the excessive charge to the battery.
In short, the pattern of Onewheel nosedive accidents appears to stem from a set of deliberate internal failsafes designed with the safety of the device in mind, but not the safety of the rider.
Injuries and Deaths Connected with Onewheel Nosedive Accidents Are Piling Up
Onewheel nosedive accidents are not theoretical or rare, and neither are the serious injuries or deaths that accompany them.
In June of 2018, a Massachusetts man reported to Future Motion that his Onewheel had shut off unexpectedly and thrown him into the air, causing a concussion and shoulder injuries which he says resulted in long-term headaches, neck pain, and memory loss. He later chose to file a Onewheel accident lawsuit, which was summarily dismissed. However, this ruling was based solely on the fact that the man had failed to disclose his right to sue Future Motion during his bankruptcy proceedings, not because the case itself lacked merit.
Future Motion apparently decided not to use this reprieve as an opportunity to refine their design before further Onewheel nosedive accidents could occur.
The next summer, a man in Texas was killed in a nearly identical nosedive while riding on a flat, paved surface, according to the lawsuit filed by his wife and son.
The summer after that, the same thing allegedly happened twice more, once to a man in San Diego, who suffered brain hemorrhaging for three weeks in the hospital before his eventual death, and once to a man in Long Island, who lasted one month before succumbing to his brain injuries. According to his family, the Long Island man also suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, a broken arm, and multiple facial fractures. Both families are now pursuing Onewheel nosedive wrongful death lawsuits.
A few months later, yet another user filed a Onewheel accident lawsuit, this one in Florida. This user survived and is claiming personal injury due to a design flaw, though public records don’t currently specify whether it is the same flaw alleged in the other cases.
The increasing list of lawsuits against Future Motion concerning alleged Onewheel design flaws does not provide a complete picture of the likely victims. There are other Onewheel accidents that have not resulted in legal action, though they would likely justify it. YouTube and Facebook are full of Onewheel fans sharing grisly images of their crashes and injuries, while other users are hurt too severely to commiserate with any semblance of pride or amusement.
In the summer of 2019, around the same time as the fatal Texas accident, a 14-year-old girl fell off her Onewheel in South Carolina and suffered a traumatic brain injury, in addition to extensive road rash. She is recovering, but that recovery has involved intense physical and cognitive rehab, including recovering her memory and re-learning how to speak.
As recently as May of 2021, a California man apparently lost control of what reporters described as a “one-wheel electric scooter,” fell down on a dark street, and was unable to get up. It may never be known exactly how badly he was injured in the original fall, because he was then struck and killed by an unidentified hit-and-run driver. Whether the device the man was riding was a genuine Onewheel or an imitator, it should be examined for its role in his death.
Future Motion Inc. Has Been Accused of False Advertising and Fraudulent Business Practices
From a legal perspective, Onewheel nosedives are even more likely to qualify as negligence on Future Motion’s part when combined with the way the device has been marketed. Companies have a duty to warn customers if using their product could be dangerous, and not to mislead them as to the seriousness of the risks. Future Motion has arguably failed to live up to this duty.
The self-balancing feature of the Onewheel is and always has been one of its key selling points. Much of the buzz surrounding it has had to do with the ease of riding it without crashing. Though Future Motion doesn’t claim that the Onewheel is crash-proof, it doesn’t appear to have done much to discourage the device’s image as a safer, easier alternative to traditional skateboards. The company’s own sales page for its smaller Onewheel Pint boasts of “Simplestop dismount technology, enabling new riders to learn to ride quickly and feel confident.”
Overstating the Onewheel’s safety and ease of use isn’t the only type of false advertising Future Motion has come under fire for, either. The company is currently facing a class action lawsuit in California over its advertising for the latest version of the full-sized Onewheel, the Onewheel XR, as well as other unethical practices related to it.
According to the suit, the Onewheel XR is marketed as an all-terrain vehicle, but cannot stand up to being used as advertised, and Future Motion has refused to take responsibility for the resulting damage to its expensive product. Claimants describe using their Onewheel XRs on wet sand and other surfaces shown in the ads, having the product fail on them, paying high shipping costs to send the product to Future Motion’s sole approved repair facility, only to have the company refuse to make repairs and demand hundreds of dollars more for the return of the still-damaged product. Some users say that Future Motion falsely accused them of having third-party repairs done, as a justification for refusing responsibility for the state of the product.
The injured rider whose case was dismissed because of his bankruptcy proceedings also described receiving a similar run-around when he reported the nosedive and sent his Onewheel in to have the flaw examined.
To add an extra insult to so much injury, in June of 2021, Future Motion accidentally sent one customer their entire list of registered customers, including full names, email addresses, and home addresses. Their apparent carelessness with customers’ physical safety seems to extend to their digital privacy as well.
Companies Have a Duty to Prevent Needlessly Dangerous Flaws
The nosedive phenomenon, as it has been described by survivors and witnesses, does seem to indicate that the Onewheel is defective to a degree that no warning label or change in marketing would fix. Even products that carry inherent, unavoidable dangers are supposed to be designed to minimize the risk of accidents during normal use as much as reasonably possible, without defeating the purpose of the product itself.
For example, a blender can’t perform its basic function without whirling blades, but it can be equipped with a safety feature that prevents those blades from moving without the lid in place. Likewise, the Onewheel skateboard needs its motor, its battery, and its balance-assist system to perform the function that makes it popular, but there’s no obvious reason the balance-assist system couldn’t be designed to stay on for a while after the motor stops, possibly in combination with a clearer warning system than the current “pushback” feature.
Future Motion has had years of opportunities to make their design safer, and they’re legally and morally responsible for the consequences of their decision not to.
What to Do After a Onewheel Accident
If you or a loved one have been involved in a Onewheel accident, immediately take the following steps to protect your life, health, and opportunities for justice:
- Protect the injured person from oncoming traffic if applicable, either by diverting the traffic or moving the person. Otherwise, do not attempt to move a person with serious or unknown injuries.
- If you or your loved one feel comfortable getting up and doing so at your own pace, make your way to the hospital or care provider of your choice. If not, call for an ambulance immediately. Either way, a prompt examination is crucial, both to screen for life-threatening injuries, such as slow brain bleeds, and to establish a timely record of any potentially long-term health consequences, such as hairline spinal fractures.
- Preserve the evidence. Keep the Onewheel in your possession, write down your experience of the accident, take pictures of the area where it happened, and if you have the chance, speak with any witnesses and obtain their contact information.
- Report the incident to Future Motion in a timely fashion, but do not surrender your Onewheel, and do not assign blame to yourself, others on the scene, or the terrain. Simply report the facts of how the Onewheel functioned. If you experienced a sudden shutoff or nosedive, say so.
- Obtain qualified legal counsel as soon as possible, and redirect all contact with Future Motion through your lawyer.
The Stoddard Firm has extensive experience in personal injury, wrongful death, and product liability law. We’re familiar with the Onewheel nosedive issue, and we’re committed to holding negligent companies accountable while getting their victims the resources they need to recover.
To discuss your case with one of our Onewheel accident lawyers today, give us a call at 678-RESULT, or reach out through our online chat function.