The Legal Considerations of Auto Technology Advances

Black modern car view of side from back to front on a country dirt road.

The NY Times recently published an article entitled End of the Road May Be Near for Side Mirrors.

This article was interesting to me because it reminds me of the many advancements made in vehicle safety over the course of the last thirty years, as well as the effects those safety improvements have had on personal injury litigation. Cars in general are becoming safer and increasingly computerized and electronic. “Smart cars” drive themselves – at least to some extent – and drivers no longer control all elements of vehicle operation. I recently read an industry magazine that stated the average four-door sedan in the United States has more electronic code than a commercial airliner. This means in the future most car accident cases will require product liability claims against manufacturers, not negligence claims against individual drivers. We personal injury lawyers will need to be prepared to address these technological changes in car accident lawsuits. At Basch and Keegan we are fully aware of the breadth of legal considerations when we get retained on automobile accident claims.

Close up view of a chrome side view mirror on late model car.

Increased Safety of Modern Vehicles

More importantly, we have noticed that advances in car safety features have been very effective in protecting people from catastrophic injuries. When Eli Basch started his personal injury practice back in the mid-to-late 1980’s, just about every auto accident victim suffered some type of broken bone mostly to the legs, arms, or face. Back then seat belts were not widely used. Cars did not have antilock brakes or power steering, and the vehicles could not withstand major impacts. Today, late model cars can withstand major accidents and impacts while protecting vehicle occupants from catastrophic injuries. This is a great thing. In fact, personal injury attorneys are partly responsible for these many safety advancements.

As a Result – Injury Profiles Have Changed

However, despite the many advancements in vehicle safety, cars cannot completely insulate people from injury, and people still suffer serious injuries every day in car accidents. The legal community is well aware that injury profiles have changed – and they are often more challenging to prove. This adversity has been compounded by the fact that the current state of New York’s “serious injury” law does recognize the change in vehicle safety and the new injury profiles. Think about it: when a fractured bone shows up on an x-ray, it’s difficult for the insurance company to dispute the injury. Conversely, whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries, such as torn rotator cuffs and herniated discs, are more difficult to prove and insurance companies know it. Insurance companies are fully aware that safer cars are resulting in less obvious injuries. But at Basch & Keegan we recognize that soft-tissue injuries are no less serious than broken bones. Soft-tissue injuries can wreak havoc on someone’s life, and they sometimes require surgical intervention or result in permanent, severe disabilities.

A red modern car after a front end crash.

Car Damage is Not Always Reflective of Degree of Injury

Another interesting change deals with vehicle damage profiles. Cars are more durable now than ever before. We have seen a trend in high-speed, rear-end accidents resulting in almost no visible damage to the victim’s vehicle. The plastic bumpers can withstand major impacts without showing any facial damage. Insurance companies have identified the same trends, and now they are training their adjusters and examiners to identify low damage accident profiles. The insurance companies now refuse to settle low-damage accidents for fair money. It is usually the offending vehicle that suffers the most damage, but the insurance companies will destroy evidence, quickly fix the vehicle or total it out.

Basch & Keegan Know the New Landscape of Car Accident Cases

The point is that personal injury lawyers must understand the new landscape of car accident litigation. The many safety improvements and advancements have been great for society, but it has also become more challenging for injury victims to recover fair compensation as a result of these many changes. At Basch & Keegan we are constantly adjusting our strategies to ensure that our clients are getting what they deserve.