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Sue My Car, Not Me: Products Liability and Accidents Involving Autonomous Vehicles - Insurance Coverage

Insurance Coverage


Posted on: Apr 17, 2018

Autonomous vehicles will revolutionize society in the near future. Computers, however, are not perfect and accidents will occur while the vehicle is in autonomous mode. This article answers the question of who should be liable when an accident is caused in autonomous mode. This article addresses the liability of autonomous vehicle by examining products liability through the use of four scenarios: the distracted driver; the diminished capabilities driver; the disabled driver; and the attentive driver.

Based on those scenarios, this article suggests that the autonomous technology manufacturer should be liable for accidents caused in autonomous mode because the autonomous vehicle probably caused the accident. Liability should shift back to the “driver” depending on the nature of the driver and the ability of that person to prevent the accident. Thus, this article argues that an autonomous vehicle manufacturer should be liable for accidents caused in autonomous mode for the disabled driver and partially for the diminished capabilities driver and the distracted driver. This article argues the attentive driver should be liable for most accidents caused in autonomous vehicles.

Currently, products liability does not allocate the financial responsibility of an accident to the party that is responsible for the accident, and this article suggests that courts and legislatures need to address tort liability for accidents caused in autonomous mode to ensure that the responsible party bears responsibility for accidents.

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This article was submitted by Georgianna Q. Tutwiller, Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons LLP. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Insurance Coverage Section, please email Kara Sikorski at ksikorski@indybar.org.

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