We live in a world where technology is expanding at a phenomenal rate. Self-driving cars are on the horizon, hover-boards are all the rage, and many other gadgets and appliances are on the scene. The question then becomes, what impact will these new inventions have on personal injury law if they become dangerous?
Self-driving cars seem to be the next society-changing innovation that is coming down the pike. The concern with them is that without a human operating the wheel, how dangerous are they? So far in pilot projects, these cars are more likely to get in accidents.
You may have seen videos on social media of everyday people and celebrities alike falling off of hover-boards in spectacular fashion. There was even a case of a hover-board malfunction that caused a house fire that killed 2 kids. They have not been certified as safe by the underwriters laboratories.
Then there are drones, which are flying off the shelves in unprecedented numbers. They are largely unregulated, and close calls with planes, cars, pedestrians, and other hazards are a regular occurrence. Not only that, but there has been at least one case of a drone falling out of the sky and injuring several people at an event. Drones can be a distraction for drivers and pilots as well.
When someone is injured because they are hit with a drone, a self-driving car, or another new technology, who is liable? It could be the manufacturer, or the seller, or even the individual handling the equipment. The answer has proven to be a complicated one. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that the self-driving car is considered the driver, not the person riding it. This would make the manufacturers liable. This changes the very definition of what constitutes a “driver”, or an “operator” of a piece of technology as they get more powerful and “smarter”.
These are some interesting questions and dilemmas that personal injury lawyers, insurance companies, and lawmakers will be dealing with over the coming years. Technology will only grow and become even more prevalent, making these issues much more complicated.