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Driverless Cars: Product Liability & Safety Considerations

Driverless Cars: Product Liability & Safety Considerations

For more information, please contact The Ahearne Law Firm, PLLC at (845) 986-2777 for an initial consultation and case evaluation.

As mentioned in our May 10th blog (Driverless Car Accident Liability), though road maintenance and alcohol-related crashes are two of the more common sources of traffic accidents to be aware of when traveling on Orange County and Hudson Valley roads, recent news about crashes involving driverless cars, also referred to as self-driving or autonomous, are prompting policymakers and lawyers to address the issue of driver, passenger and pedestrian injuries.

Additionally, there has been much conversation recently about how connected cars and automated/autonomous vehicles will impact product liability. Automakers and suppliers will need to adapt their approach to product safety and product compliance to manage the risks associated with these current and future mobility trends.

Traditionally, someone injured in an accident that was allegedly caused by a defective product would be owed compensation for losses such as the cost of medical treatment or pain and suffering. The majority of liability cases in the automotive industry involves a personal injury action with one driver versus another driver due to an alleged driving error. As there are fewer technical defects in today’s cars, there are even fewer accidents triggered by technical issues in cars. However, a shift in liability is underway. With autonomous vehicles taking  over more responsibility and performing more driving maneuvers — from highly and fully automated up to fully autonomous driving — if an accident happens, it will not be one driver versus another driver. Rather, it will be traffic victims either outside the vehicle or passengers inside the vehicle versus the person responsible for the vehicle — typically the automaker or a supplier because they were responsible for an alleged defect in the vehicle.

The overall number of auto accidents should decrease because automated and autonomous cars will be designed to be much safer. However, accidents which do occur might become the responsibility of automakers and suppliers, which will have to defend their products from a product safety and compliance perspective. If there is an alleged defect in a car, the car could be considered unsafe and that in turn might trigger a recall. The recall could be more dangerous and challenging for the automaker or supplier than the actual accident they may deal with as potentially millions of vehicles with the same technology will instantly be considered unsafe, triggering an unprecedented safety issue.

Auto dealers will need to assure customers that driverless cars are free from defects and safe. The biggest threat to automakers and suppliers in terms of product compliance is the criminal product liability that may arise. If there is an accident caused by a defect in the vehicle’s programming and a person dies, is the developer or programmer criminally responsible for the death? An accident investigator might discover that a developer or manager signed off on an aspect of the car and potentially did something negligent when it comes to the duty of care. As a consequence, they might be exposed to criminal product liability risks. Moreover, companies cannot insure themselves against criminal liability.

There are also a host of ethical dilemmas arising from autonomous driving. What is the autonomous vehicle programmed to do if it suddenly identifies a person walking across the street who may not have right of way? The car may not have enough time to break, leaving it two options — hit the person walking across the street or take action. However, if the car takes evasive action, may it hit something else? A big issue will be whether to primarily protect persons inside or outside of the car.

Please see our other traffic-related blog posts:

Orange County Adopts Policy to Comply With New York Complete Streets Act

Orange County Adopts Policy to Comply With New York Complete Streets Act

Rear End Car Accidents, Whiplash & Personal Injury

Rear End Car Accidents, Whiplash & Personal Injury

NTSB Aims to Reduce Speeding-Related Crashes

Uber & Lyft Now Available Throughout New York State

Road Accidents & Crashes

New York Court of Appeals Upholds DMV’s Drunk Driving Regulations

Driverless Car Accident Liability

Distracted Driving Accident

Bicycle & Car Accident

Rear End Automobile Accidents

Side Impact Collision

#driverless #selfdriving #cars #accident #liability #traffic

If you or a family member have suffered a traffic accident or injury, you and/or your family member may be entitled to money damages.

The Ahearne Law Firm, PLLC

Offices in Manhattan and Warwick, New York

Serving New York City, Orange County and the Hudson Valley

Mass tort lawsuits handled nationwide

Personal Injury · Product Liability · Medical Malpractice
Commercial Litigation · Criminal Defense · Corporate Counsel Real Estate

For more information, please call us at (845) 986-2777 for an initial consultation and case evaluation.


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