The legal ramifications of automated cars could be staggering.

Remember when people used to cause auto accidents? 

It looks possible that those simpler times we be nothing more than a memory. With the advent of automated self-driving automobile technology, it looks like computers will be the most frequent defendant in motor vehicle accident claims.

Of course, a computer can't be a defendant in a legal claim. But we will see computer-operated cars as the cause of motor vehicle accidents with increasing frequency. There is no chance that automated vehicles will be perfectly safe and make the right decision every time, so this increase in automated vehicle accidents will have a dramatic impact on the world of auto accident claims.

What Impact Will Automated Cars Have?

According to a recent article in Claims Journal, this new technology will impact a number of aspects of legal claims involving car, truck and other vehicles.

  • Different target for claims: As mentioned earlier, with no human operating the cars, the drivers can't generally be the defendants in these claims. Many legal actions that used to be simple auto accident/personal injury claims are going to look more like product liability claims against the manufacturers and designers of these vehicles, as well as the subcontractors who design the collision avoidance algorithms.
  • More complex insurance adjustment issues: The Claims Journal article raises the idea that the increased cost of automated cars could lead to more instances of shared ownership, which would complicate the adjustment process.
  • More complicated subrogation issues: Subrogation opportunities could open up against car companies, software writing firms and other companies involved in the creation of automated cars.
  • Increased thefts: Another interesting observation from the Claims Journal is that hacking an automated car's operating system could me more simple than hotwiring a car, and it could be done remotely. Theoretically a person could "steal" a car simply by gain control of the computer system and have full operational control remotely. This could lead to a number of serious problems and legal claims.

Indeed the entire legal schema surrounding automobile liability could be impacted severely by the advent of automated cars. Hopefully the legislature will act preemptively to bring some clarity into this complex legal area.

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