Driverless vehicles have begun to pop in the United States, Canada, and in Europe with the development of more sophisticated technology. This notion may seem far-fetched to some, but it's true; soon we won't need people driving vehicles. One estimate anticipates up to 75% of all vehicles will be driverless by 2040.
While driverless vehicles sound cool, they are unchartered territory for regulators and insurers. Century-old rules have been created based on human driving behaviour, not computer behaviour. Now, liability comes into question. Who's to blame for an accident when there's no driver? The effect this technology will have on personal injury litigation will be tremendous.
What will Change? Personal Injury Litigation with Driverless Vehicles
Driverless vehicles hold the promise of a lot of things, many of which affect personal injury litigation.
1) The promise of fewer accidents: Human error is behind the majority of car accidents. Whether it's texting and driving, following too close, not looking both directions, or not driving for road conditions, there are a lot of ways we can cause an accident. According to Transport Canada, there were more than 160,000 personal injuriescaused by vehicles accidents in 2015. Studies have shown, though, that driverless vehicles can reduce accident by up to 90%.
2) Fewer personal injury claims: Since the roads will be safer, fewer personal injury claims will result. Personal injury lawyers will see a significant drop in car-related injury cases. However, this scenario wouldn't be too damaging for lawyers as they can handle many different types of cases.
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3) Liability issues: This issue will be a huge one to grapple with and will be a roadblock that driverless vehicles will have to overcome. Who is responsible in the event that a driverless car is involved in a crash or, worse, hacked? Owners won't want to be blamed for a crash they couldn't prevent; it's not fair.
Some car manufacturers like Volvo, Mercedes, and Google have said they'll accept full liability for their driverless vehicles. Since no one will be behind the wheel, some lawyers believe a lot more parties may be targeted for potentially large payments like computer programmers and companies, or Google.
Driverless vehicles are coming. Many vehicles on the road now already have some of these capabilities like accident sensing, which keep people safe. Personal injury claims could stand to decrease dramatically when driverless vehicles go mainstream.