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Nebraska’s Laws on Automated Vehicles

By Jason Bottlinger on April 12, 2021

Self-driving cars may sound like a futuristic endeavor, but newer and newer technology is being developed and tested every day across the country. As exciting as these vehicles sound, there are still many questions about how safe they will be and how drivers should respond in a wreck. While laws surrounding these vehicles are still in the early stages, it is important for every driver to understand their rights after a collision with a self-driving car.

LB 989 and Self-Driving Cars

Back in 2018, Governor Pete Ricketts approved Legislative Bill 989, a bill that outlined Nebraska’s stance regarding self-driving cars. Under this law, car manufacturers were allowed to begin developing and testing self-driving cars on Nebraska roads so long as they complied with specific guidelines, including:

  • A self-driving car may operate without a driver if it meets all the standards for safety, including the ability to respond to other drivers, dangerous road design, railroad crossings, and other situations that could cause a crash.
  • Owners and operators of self-driving vehicles must show proof of financial responsibility in the event of a crash, such as liability insurance, according to the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Public transportation, rideshare, and delivery companies may operate self-driving vehicles on Nebraska public roads.
  • If there is a collision, the vehicle must remain at the scene of the accident, the owner must report the crash to the police (if available).

While Nebraska’s laws are rather lax compared to other states’, it will still be years before fully autonomous vehicles are regularly seen on our roads. Currently, the only self-driving vehicle available for purchase is from Tesla, which comes with a high price tag and is not fully automated. Most other auto manufacturers have limited functions. The City of Lincoln has announced plans for a self-driving shuttle, but for most people in Nebraska, self-driving cars are still a thing of the future. Until then, it is important to understand what your rights are when a crash does occur.

What Should I Do If I’m Injured by a Self-Driving Car?

First, make sure that you are safe and immediately call 911. The police and paramedics can rush to the scene and make sure that you receive medical attention. According to Nebraska state law, the self-driving vehicle and its operator, if available, must remain at the scene and report the collision.

If it is safe to do so, make sure to get the driver’s or vehicle’s insurance information to later file a claim. You should also take photos of the scene of the crash and note the vehicle’s model and manufacturer.

Self-driving car claims are complex. If the owner was in the vehicle, they may be found negligent if they failed to respond to dangerous road conditions or allowed the vehicle’s software to cause a collision. However, if the collision was caused due to a defect in the vehicle’s design or automated systems, you may have a product liability claim against the car’s designer. Legislators are currently considered new self-driving laws that would define when drivers are liable and when manufacturers are liable.

Until these laws are clearer, it is important to discuss all of your options with an experienced Omaha car accident attorney. At Bottlinger Law L.L.C., we have spent years representing injured clients throughout Omaha and fighting for full compensation on their behalf. If you bring your case to us, we can investigate the collision, determine who is liable, and advocate for your best interests. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (402) 505-8234.

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