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Self-driving cars and the shift in liability

By Butler Prather LLP on March 9, 2017

There may be many changes ahead for Georgia motorists when self-driving cars become common, including a shift in what causes accidents and how that liability will be handled by insurers. There should be a reduction in problems such as drunk driving and speeding, but software malfunctions could result in accidents. Experts predict that the liability in accidents will shift from drivers to software developers, manufacturers and subcontractors. Cars might be vulnerable to hackers.

There will be a significant shift in how accidents are investigated. While current investigations after a car accident may focus on things such as who had the right of way, when self-driving cars become common, that will shift to examining what went wrong in collision avoidance systems or similar safety technology.

Despite the vulnerability of software, it is expected that there will be an overall drop in motor vehicle accidents. This could mean that as the insurance industry is changing in terms of how it assesses liability, it may also shrink.

However, it is likely to be some time before regulations, safety testing and technology make driverless cars commonplace. Until then, it is likely that human error will continue to be a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. When accidents caused by human error such as speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving occur, other drives, passengers, and pedestrians may suffer serious injuries. Insurance companies might not pay a sufficient amount to cover the cost of an individual’s medical care as well as the loss of wages if the person misses work during their recovery. The liability may fall on the driver who caused the accident, and the injured individual might file a lawsuit against that driver. The compensation from a successful lawsuit could help cover some of the costs that the initial insurance payment did not.

Posted in: Car Accidents


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