The possibility of autonomous vehicles in Maryland is an exciting one. But while many people focus on the easier commutes, fewer accidents, and environmental gains that are supposed to come with self-driving cars, one of the biggest impacts that autonomous vehicles is likely to have on our daily lives is something that most people overlook: the issue of car insurance.
Unfortunately, because self-driving cars are still a future technology and the problems associated with it are still hypothetical, experts are still unsure about how car insurance will change in the future.
Here are some of the possible outcomes.
The Fundamental Change: From Liable Drivers to Liable Vehicles
Autonomous vehicles are going to change perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the field of car insurance: instead of drivers being negligent and liable for crashes, it will be the vehicles that are liable. This change is not small, as it turns car accidents involving autonomous vehicles from questions of negligence to questions of product liability.
For insurance, this is a big difference because drivers are no longer going to be the focal point of insurance coverage. Instead, insurance companies will pay far more attention to the vehicles that are being insured, rather than the driver. Factors that are now important for determining the costs of car insurance are going to become obsolete, such as:
- A driver's record of car accidents
- Moving violations
- Serious traffic infractions, including DUI or hit-and-run violations
- The type and style of car
- How far the driver usually drives in a given year
- Where the vehicle will be parked when it is not used
- The driver's age and gender
- Crime rates in the geographic area
Instead, car insurance companies are going to pay far more attention to vehicle-specific factors when they set insurance rates, including:
- The brand of self-driving car
- The make and model of the car, with a focus on the prior problems the vehicle has had
- Strength of cyber security used on the vehicle
Additionally, these car insurance rates are far more likely to be paid by the autonomous vehicle makers, not by the drivers. This is especially likely if self-driving vehicles are used like ridesharing vehicles, where riders can hail a car and pay per trip, rather than owned by individual people entirely for their own use.
Car Insurance Could Become Obsolete
It is not impossible for car insurance as we know it to become obsolete if self-driving cars take over the transportation field the way they are supposed to. After all, self-driving cars would be similar to taxicabs, with the passenger sitting passively in the car as the vehicle navigated traffic. People who use taxicabs do not need car insurance because they are not driving. The same should go for people who use autonomous vehicles – they would not need car insurance coverage because they are not actually controlling the vehicle.
Adding to this movement away from personal car insurance coverage is the marketing potential for autonomous vehicle makers to voluntarily pay for the costs of the crashes that their vehicles create. Self-driving car companies can use this as a bold proclamation about the safety of their vehicles, and it would stand in the same role as car insurance does, now.
Fewer, But More Expensive Insurance Claims
If self-driving cars are as safe as they are supposed to be, then the number of car accidents would plummet, especially as fewer human drivers take to the roads. With fewer crashes, there would also be far fewer insurance claims, as well, reducing both the need for car insurance and potentially the costs of having coverage.
Unfortunately, a lower cost for car insurance is far from guaranteed in the world of autonomous vehicles. While the number of crashes and claims decreases, the complexity of those crashes and claims are likely to dramatically increase as the vehicles carry expensive and highly-sensitive equipment that is costly to repair or replace.
Another aspect of car insurance that would nearly disappear because of self-driving cars is insurance fraud. Many people who file a car insurance claim exaggerate the costs of the damage they have suffered in order to get a bigger check from their insurance company. When done intentionally and for the purpose of getting money, this can amount to insurance fraud.
With autonomous vehicles, though, the information about a crash would have been recorded by the vehicle, itself. Without the need for a person to report what happened, the opportunity to commit insurance fraud disappears.
This development changes car insurance not just for fraudsters: Innocent and honest people pay the price of insurance fraud every time they pay their insurance premium. Car insurance companies defray the costs of anticipated fraud by increasing the costs of car insurance for everyone.
Maryland's Contributory Negligence Rules Get the Backseat
Finally, a crucial part of Maryland's personal injury law is that victims are barred from recovering compensation if they contributed to their injuries in any way. Car accident victims can recover nothing if a jury found, for example, that the driver's slightly excessive speed was one percent of the reason for the crash happening.
Self-driving cars simplify this draconian rule. Maryland drivers are no longer drivers; they are passengers who cannot contribute to a crash unless they take control of the vehicle. Victims in Maryland are far more likely to recover compensation after an autonomous vehicle crash than an accident between human drivers.
Gilman & Bedigian: Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Maryland
The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian strive to represent accident victims both in the courtroom and outside of it. Because self-driving cars seem bound to become such an important part of the transportation system in the very near future, our attorneys are exploring all of the ways that autonomous vehicles are going to change how the law works, including their impact on car insurance laws.
Contact us online if you have been hurt in a car accident in Maryland and want to explore your legal options.