Automobile litigation will be disrupted by driverless cars

Personal injury lawyers beware; the driverless car will likely wipe out automobile litigation as we know it today.

Automobile litigation has long been a bread-and-butter business line for small and Main Street law firms. Sure, it’s not like it was in the 1970s, when a quick letter to an insurer threatening to sue could reap immediate rewards.

Thanks to no-fault insurance in Ontario and the insurance lobby push to limit recovery for whiplash, automobile litigation has become much more complex and there are a number of plaintiff-focused boutiques that have arisen, specializing in things such as catastrophic claims.

By the same token, a number of insurance defence boutique firms have grown to focus on the steady diet of cases that come with insuring cars.

Chances are, all that goes away by mid-century at the latest.

Automobile litigation will be disrupted by driverless cars for a couple of reasons.

First, experts predict fewer accidents once we hand off control to sensors and algorithms, which means fewer lawsuits. In a seminal 2017 paper in the Michigan Law Review on autonomous vehicles and liability, University of South Carolina law professor Bryant Walker Smith writes that automated driving systems “are likely to be safer than human-driven vehicles.”

He premises that on the fact that driver error plays a role in 94 per cent of motor vehicle crashes and about 35,000 Americans die each year, with another four million injured.

In Canada, the numbers are less staggering but still concerning. According to 2015 figures from Transport Canada, there were 118,404 accidents resulting in personal injury or death. That works out to 324 crashes per day. Car crashes killed 1,858 people — five a day — and 161,902 people were injured, including 10,280 who suffered “serious” injuries that required hospitalization.

Read the whole article by Jim Middlemiss in Canadian Lawyer Mag, here: