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Recent Trends in Car Accident Litigation: Technology, Autonomous Vehicles, and Ridesharing


A woman ordering a rideshare vehicle with her phone.

How Americans travel is constantly changing, and significant technological advances have occurred within the past twenty years. Uber, one of the pioneers of ridesharing, started in 2009. Tesla introduced its Autopilot autonomous driving technology in 2015, paving the way for competitors to introduce their own self-driving cars.

These innovations have not come without cost, however. New dangers for motorists and others who use the roadway have accompanied advances in automotive technology. This rise in new hazards has required car accident lawyers in Florida to confront new challenges in obtaining compensation for injured individuals.

Rideshare Injury Victims

Uber and Lyft introduced Americans to ridesharing as an alternative to hiring a taxi or taking a bus to a destination. Instead, you can find an individual with a car in your area who is willing to drive you to where you want to go for a comparable fee.

Passengers have found that getting a ride with an individual can be easier and more convenient than other methods. Uber and Lyft drivers have appreciated a way to make extra money by offering rides through the apps.

However, the convenience of ridesharing has not insulated passengers or other motorists from accidents involving rideshare vehicles and their occupants. This situation has presented a unique challenge to those who believed a rideshare driver contributed to their injury crash.

In these cases, Uber and Lyft would deny their drivers were employees, preventing injury victims from suing the companies directly. Yet if rideshare drivers were truly independent contractors, many were woefully underinsured for transporting others.

A solution has emerged where a rideshare driver’s insurance coverage depends on their actions when the wreck happens. For instance, if a driver is in the process of picking up or transporting a fare, Uber and Lyft both cover their drivers with a generous primary liability policy to cover injuries.

Otherwise, the rideshare driver’s own private liability policy is responsible for paying compensation. Both rideshare companies require drivers to maintain state-minimum insurance policies as a condition for driving for the companies. Additionally, some states have imposed greater minimum insurance requirements on rideshare drivers.

Autonomous Vehicles

Vehicles that supposedly drive themselves also present a unique challenge for injury victims hurt by these machines. In a traditional car accident, the driver who is at fault and who causes the accident can be held responsible for severe injuries they cause to others.

However, who should be sued if the vehicle at fault has no driver or if you are riding in an autonomous vehicle that crashes itself? These are questions that have been difficult to answer.

Although technology may allow cars to drive autonomously, the law does not absolve the owners or those in control of these vehicles from liability. There must remain a “driver” must remain in the vehicle who is capable of taking control of the car in an emergency. This person bears the responsibility of avoiding an accident.

Manufacturers involved in the production of autonomous vehicles, including the software companies that make the programs allowing autonomous driving, have also been floated as possible defendants.

The allegations underpinning such efforts are that the software is unreasonably dangerous and does not function the way it was described, so the manufacturer or developer should bear responsibility for the harm caused.

Other Vehicle Technology

Beyond these developments, vehicles, in general, have become more complex. Car crash injury victims with a claim against another driver have access to a large amount of data and information about a car’s operation that injury victims did not have 50 years ago.

This allows you to paint a much fuller picture of the factors that led to your crash, provided you know how to access the data. The list of potential defendants in an injury case has also expanded with the added components and computerized systems.

Drivers and even some car accident lawyers may not know all of a vehicle’s features, much less how those features work. If a component malfunctions and contributes to a crash, injury victims may have difficulty identifying the manufacturer of the component to bring a lawsuit against them.

Speak With an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today

One step you can take to protect yourself if you have been seriously hurt in a Florida car accident is to turn to an experienced and knowledgeable car accident lawyer to represent you. The seasoned team at Schrier Law Group stays abreast of changes in the law to provide clients with the most up-to-date and effective advocacy.

Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your personal injury claim with an experienced car accident attorney today.