The use of autonomous vehicles opens up a world of possibilities for convenience and safety but has also raised important questions about how these vehicles will affect existing laws related to personal injury. 

This technology brings both benefits and risks, which means that the legal system must be prepared to handle any potential changes to protect everyone’s rights and interests. Understanding how different states are approaching the issue is important since they may vary in terms of their approach and regulations. 

In general, two key questions have been posed regarding how self-driving cars will impact personal injury laws: Who is responsible for injuries caused by autonomous vehicles, and what kind of compensation should be provided for victims?

Who is responsible for injuries caused by autonomous vehicles?

Who Is Responsible for Injuries Caused by Autonomous Vehicles?

This will depend on the specific circumstances of an incident. If a driver is using a self-driving car, they may still be held liable for any injuries that occur — as long as they were negligent in some way. For example, if it can be proven that the driver was distracted at the time of an accident or ignored warnings from the car’s system, then they could be held accountable for any resulting injuries. 

On the other hand, if there is no driver present in an autonomous vehicle when an accident occurs (i.e. it’s operating in fully autonomous mode), then responsibility would typically fall on whoever owns the vehicle or the manufacturer of its systems. This is because, in this case, a human driver would not have been present to take action and prevent an accident from occurring.

It is interesting to note in this context that Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson has announced that the company will accept full liability whenever one of its cars is in autonomous mode
Explore our recent article discussing who is at fault in a self-driving car accident to learn more about the specifics of Tennessee autonomous vehicle liability.

What Kind of Compensation Should Be Provided for Victims?

The answer to this second question is less clear-cut. One possible approach could involve levying civil damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages) against whoever is responsible for the incident to compensate those who were injured. In some cases though, states may also pursue criminal charges if a driver was found to be at fault due to negligence or other wrongful behavior when operating an autonomous vehicle.

Specific regulations related to self-driving cars

Looking Ahead: Setting the Stage for Fully Autonomous Vehicle Injury Claims

In addition to these two questions, many other issues need to be addressed by the legal system to ensure that everyone is protected when it comes to personal injury laws and autonomous vehicles. Some states have recently begun introducing specific regulations related to self-driving cars that aren’t even commercially available yet, requiring them to have certain safety features or mandating that they always be operated with a human driver present. 

The growing prevalence of autonomous vehicles means that the legal system must evolve to keep up with this new technology. With the right legislation in place, we can ensure that this new technology benefits all of us — and not just the tech companies behind it.

Explore the resources below for more information about the regulations and hesitations around “self-driving” autonomous vehicles: