Autonomous Car Involved in First Injury Accident

by David Rumsey | July 30, 2015

shutterstock_213179932It had to happen eventually, and last week, it finally did.

For the first time ever, a self-driving vehicle was involved in an accident that resulted in bodily injuries. Both drivers and two passengers suffered whiplash and other soft tissue damage when a Google prototype vehicle was rear-ended by a human-driven car.

Though the injuries to the motorists fortunately were minor, the implications for the legal community were huge.

For months, Creative Services has been brainstorming ways to sensibly approach this emerging topic. Thanks to insightful conversations with the law firms we represent, we’ve kept abreast of the latest research regarding insurance, regulation, and public safety.

Based on the information we’ve gathered, here are the most commonly discussed concerns regarding autonomous cars.

1. Liability

Who’s liable in self-driving car accidents? The debate continues. The trending answer is that “it depends.” If the accident is caused by operator error, the existing state laws for car accidents should still be adequate. But if the accident was due to technology failure, the accident claim could have larger defective product implications and follow the path of a complex tort case.

2. Insurance

Just like each state has its own laws for accident liability, each state has its own set of rules for auto insurance. However, this report from the Insurance Information Institute speculates that the question of fault COULD cause a national wave of uniformity to sweep across the car insurance landscape.  In fact, the RAND Corporation claims the prevailing model may be No-Fault insurance, where your insurance policy pays regardless of who (or what) caused the accident.

3. Safety Regulation

According to the NHTSA, self-driving cars must be able to fend off hackers before they’re allowed to take the road. What does that even mean? Is any computer really “hacker-proof?” Apparently not, because Wired recently published a recall-inducing report after two hackers remotely took control of a human-driven Jeep. If that’s true, you gotta assume that computer-driven cars with Internet navigation systems can certainly be hacked. Yikes! Also, how many times per week (or day) do you experience some sort of hardware, software, or firmware crash in your personal devices? Doesn’t it stand to reason that the car’s computer will be equally fallible? Double yikes!

With all the uncertainties swirling around autonomous cars, we may be years away from seeing the roads packed with these futuristic vehicles. But whichever way the legal wind blows, cj Advertising is well-positioned to help law firms reach the people who need legal services after an accident.

Buckle up and stay tuned.


Photo credit: Shutterstock