Lawyer thinks self-driving cars may be a bust for personal injury attorneys

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question ” Is a tractor-trailer accident the same as an automobile accident?”


Motor vehicles and the virtually unfettered freedom of movement throughout the United States they have afforded have become staples of American life over the past century.

Self driving car Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Car accident AttorneyThose staples are not likely to disappear anytime soon, but if technology giant Google, Inc. has its way, the manner in which many people move around the country in motor vehicles may be in for a drastic change.

The company recently announced that it had developed a “fully functional” prototype of a self-driving car. It is now seeking corporate partners in the automobile industry to bring self-driving cars to market within the next five years.

New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz said the self-driving cars will have the ability to “see the other cars/pedestrians and slow down or stop despite the driver being lost in thought elsewhere. Or drunk. Or asleep…” As Turkewitz notes, the self-driving car software automatically slows or stops the car when it senses an impending collision. Turkewitz thinks the software may lessen or eliminate crashes caused by human error. As a consequence, the number of crashes will be reduced and, Turkewitz speculated, less people will die or be injured in car crashes each year. That will lower insurance premiums for drivers and may reduce the number of personal injury lawsuits brought by claimants injured in car crashes. That would mean, in theory, less work for personal injury attorneys.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported, however, that self-driving cars are a long way from becoming common on American roadways, for a variety of reasons. Adrian Lund, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told the Journal in August that a number of legal and insurance issues stand in the way of self-driving cars being brought to market. “Some states,” Lund said, “allow professional drivers to experiment with autonomous controls,” but it is likely that the motor-vehicle laws in every state prohibit drivers from taking their hands off the steering wheel for a significant period of time.

North Carolina law requires that motor vehicles be equipped with a properly operating steering mechanism, presumably so that drivers can safely operate motor vehicles. Steering mechanisms must be inspected yearly to ensure compliance with minimum safety standards. In addition, drivers in the state must be licensed to operate a motor vehicle—even if the motor vehicle is being towed and the driver is only operating the steering wheel.

In its Driver Handbook, the North Carolina Department of Transportation provides guidance for safe steering in a variety of situations that drivers may encounter on the roadways. It is difficult to imagine how these varied suggested responses to roadway conditions and stimuli will be transposed upon machines—computers installed in self-driving cars—and to imagine how such cars will successfully respond in real time to incidents that arise on the roadways.

As with any new invention, only time will tell whether the self-driving car has its intended results. Time will also reveal the unintended consequences of pressing self-driving cars into service on America’s roadways, if that ever happens.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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