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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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    Are the Jetsons Already Here? The Legalities of Autonomous Vehicle Accidents in Florida

    The future may be now…Several key aspects govern the use, liability, and regulatory framework of autonomous vehicles (AVs)(or “self-driving” cars) in Florida. The development and deployment of AV technology have significantly progressed, leading to legal and regulatory challenges, especially in the event of accidents.

    Florida has embraced the future of transportation by legalizing autonomous vehicles (AVs). With this cutting-edge technology comes a host of legal implications, particularly regarding accidents involving AVs. As self-driving cars navigate the streets of Florida, understanding the legal framework governing these vehicles is essential for drivers, manufacturers, and legal professionals alike.

    Legal Framework in Florida

    Florida has been at the forefront of AV legislation, aiming to create an environment that fosters innovation while ensuring public safety. The state has enacted several laws that specifically address autonomous vehicles. These laws define autonomous vehicles, set testing and operation standards, and outline insurance and liability requirements.

    Key AV legislation includes:

    • Florida Statute 316.85, which addresses the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads, outlining the conditions under which they may operate.
    • Florida Statute 627.749, which provides for insurance requirements and addresses liability concerns for AVs.

    These statutes represent Florida’s commitment to adapting its legal and regulatory framework to accommodate the advent of AV technology.

    Who is Responsible? Liability in AV Accidents

    Liability in accidents involving autonomous vehicles in Florida presents complex legal challenges. Traditional vehicular accidents typically involve human error, but with AVs, liability may extend to manufacturers, software developers, and other parties involved in the vehicle’s operation and design. What happens if there is a communication failure during the drive and the vehicle loses control?

    Key considerations include:

    • Negligence and Product Liability: In cases where an AV’s malfunction or design flaw causes an accident, liability may fall on the manufacturer or software developer under product liability laws.
    • Comparative Fault: Florida’s comparative fault rules may apply in AV accidents, potentially distributing liability among multiple parties, including the AV operator, if there was any manual control involved at the time of the accident.

    Accidents involving autonomous vehicles in Florida present unique legal challenges requiring a nuanced understanding of the state’s legislation and the technology behind AVs.

    The Future of AV Legislation in Florida

    As AV technology evolves, so too will the legal complexities. Future legislation may address data privacy concerns and cybersecurity and further refine liability and insurance requirements. Lawmakers, manufacturers, and the legal community must stay abreast of technological advancements and societal impacts to ensure laws remain relevant and protective of all parties involved.

    Catastrophic Personal Injuries in AV Accidents

    Like accidents involving human-driven cars, accidents with self-driving cars can result in catastrophic personal injuries. The high level of automation in autonomous vehicles (AVs) does not eliminate the risk of severe accidents. In fact, the complexity of AV technology and the potential for system malfunctions or failures can lead to unique and serious accident scenarios.

    For example, consider a scenario where an autonomous vehicle fails to detect a stopped vehicle on a high-speed highway due to a sensor malfunction. Despite the advanced technology designed to prevent such incidents, the self-driving car collides with the stopped vehicle at a high speed. The impact of this collision could result in severe injuries to the occupants of both vehicles, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis, severe burns, amputations, and other life-altering conditions. These injuries can have profound implications for victims, including long-term medical treatment, rehabilitation, and care needs, as well as significant financial, emotional, and psychological impacts.

    What to Do if You’re Involved in an Accident with a Self-Driving Car

    If you’re involved in an accident with a self-driving car in Florida, here’s what to do:

    1. Ensure Safety and Report the Accident: Prioritize safety, call 911 if needed, and report the accident to law enforcement.
    2. Gather Information: Take photos of the scene and vehicles and collect witness information.
    3. Seek Medical Attention: Get checked, even if you don’t have any apparent injuries.
    4. Notify Your Insurance Company: Inform your insurance company of the accident, but proceed cautiously with statements.
    5. Consult a Specialized Attorney: Seek advice from an attorney experienced in autonomous vehicle law and accident cases.
    6. Understand Potential Avenues for Compensation: Your attorney will identify potential sources of compensation, considering the complexities of AV technology and law.
    7. Prepare for a Complex Legal Process: Navigating AV accident claims can be intricate due to the technology and legal questions involved.

    Whether you’re a driver, a pedestrian, or a passenger involved in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, securing expert legal guidance is crucial. Leighton Law specializes in personal injury cases involving advanced technologies, including autonomous vehicles. Our team is well-versed in the complexities of Florida’s AV legislation and is committed to staying at the forefront of legal and technological developments. We understand the nuances of liability, insurance, and compensation in self-driving car accidents and are dedicated to advocating for our clients’ rights and best interests.

    If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, don’t navigate this complex legal landscape alone. Contact Leighton Law for a consultation.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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