When a driverless car has an accident, who's liable? Stay tuned ....

When a driverless car has an accident, who’s liable? Stay tuned ….

One thing I have learned in 27 years of practice is that the law is constantly evolving, and if you want to do a good job for your clients, you also have to constantly evolve.

Thankfully, I love learning about new technology, which often leads me to think about how new technology will influence current laws.

A recent article on NPR’s thought-provoking Planet Money has an interesting discussion of how the law might evolve as cars start to drive themselves.

Yup, driverless cars are coming, and they’re bringing a bunch of legal headaches with them.

Google is leading the way in the effort to develop driverless cars. The technology is starting to take shape and test drives have been called a success so far.

But our legal system will face a huge challenge when faced with this difficult question: When a driverless car crashes, who’s liable?

Cory Turner, the author of the NPR blog post, points out that governments and courts will have to answer many legal and regulatory issues BEFORE we all slide into the passenger seat to watch a DVD or read a book!

The auto industry is aware of the risk, Turner said. “We have great exposure as an industry in terms of product liability,” Dan Gage of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Turner. “And I think as an industry … most of us suspect that there will always be someone in that driver’s seat.”

Turner said a lesson from the vaccine industry may hold the key for driverless cars.

In the 1980s, the rising threat of liability prompted vaccine manufacturers to pull out of the business, Turner wrote. So Congress stepped in and created a new system for people who are injured by vaccines. Cases are handled in special hearings, and victims are paid out of a fund created by a tax on vaccines.

With the threat of liability reduced, Turner wrote, more companies started making vaccines again.

To learn more about driverless cars, check out Forbes’ multipart series or a look at road rage and driverless cars in the Huffington Post.

Motorists in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers:

Would you want to own a driverless car?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Thanks for reading,


James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Mailto: jreed@zifflaw.com
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and