Autonomous Cars Raise Liability Questions

If you’re injured in a crash, who pays?

It’s 2017, and technology is changing almost every aspect of how we live, work and drive. And few of those new technologies promise bigger changes than autonomous vehicles, which are getting on roads around the country – and, in a small but growing number of cases, getting into accidents.

That’s a problem for the insurance companies, and potentially for injured motorists as well, because, as NPR reports, the insurance industry does not yet know how to deal with this new technology.autonomous vehicle technologies

The current insurance system is based largely on human drivers. Drivers who have long records of safe driving pay less for insurance; drivers who are inexperienced, have filed multiple claims, or have a record of unsafe driving pay more. When cars become autonomous, though, responsibility for crashes shifts to the manufacturer, as there is no human operator to hold liable in the first place.

Already we’re beginning to see some legislation addressing this issue around the country. Lawmakers in Michigan, for example, have passed a law stating that the automaker insures every car in its fleet in the case that a driverless system is at fault for an accident. And the burden of insuring all of those driverless cars would be a huge expense for the manufacturers – one that could slow down the progress of the technology itself.

Lack of data could result in insurance companies passing costs to victims

Because the technology is so new, one of the biggest challenges on the insurance side is a lack of data. Insurance companies are in the business of using data to analyze and manage risk; when there is less data, the uncertainty itself becomes a risk. Moreover, there is no established case law to give the insurance companies an idea of how crashes involving self-driving vehicles will play out in court.

All of that uncertainty represents exposure to the insurance companies’ bottom line, and their response to exposure is always to protect their financial interests as much as possible. In many respects, a legal case arising from a self-driving car crash would be the same as any other, with the same questions about traffic laws, driving conditions and fault for the collision that we handle every day. But you can expect the insurance companies and their lawyers to fight as hard as they can to reduce or eliminate payouts to victims, using the complex liability picture to their advantage.

With so much new technology on our roads, it’s more important than ever to retain an experienced car accident attorney who knows how to navigate these complex legal questions. Thorough research and preparation is what will continue to win car accident claims as more and more autonomous vehicles reach our roads, and you need a law firm with the resources and experience to build a powerful case. In over 40 years, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has helped more than 25,000 injured or disabled Mainers get the justice they deserve.  Contact us today for a free and confidential evaluation.

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