Relatively few people in the U.S. can make this claim. Yet it does happen, and it’s likely to happen more often the closer we come to our brave new world. Autonomous vehicles are touted as the ultimate solution to human error. They won’t violate speed limits. They won’t drive intoxicated. And they won’t fail to check their blind spots before changing lanes.
On the other hand, they do create a bit of a legal problem in terms of liability. What would happen if an autonomous vehicle were to glitch out or make a mistake, and this resulted in a serious injury? Below, we’ll discuss some of the possibilities.
AI and Product Liability Lawsuits
For technical legal reasons, AI and any software are not considered a product, but a service. As a service, it is not held to the same strict liability as other products. For instance, if a tire on your car were to blow out while you were driving, you could claim that the manufacturer defectively made the tire and that they’re responsible for your injuries. As long as you weren’t negligent in the maintenance of the tire, you would be able to recover damages. In other words, you wouldn’t have to prove negligence, since it is assumed that any product manufacturer owes their customers a duty of care to ensure that their products are made safely.
The software doesn’t work that way, largely because software manufacturers have successfully lobbied legislators to be considered service as opposed to a product. Software comes with strict licensing agreements that may absolve software engineers of any liability if their product fails. When you sign an end-user license agreement, you are essentially saying that you are waiving some of your rights to pursue litigation. These conditions of use have largely been upheld by the courts.
However, there is a second consideration that needs to be considered, and it involves basic traffic laws. Legislators have a vested interest in ensuring the public good, and they don’t want vehicles out on the road that is beyond the reach of accountability. If an AI performs an illegal traffic maneuver, the company or companies responsible for manufacturing the AI could be held liable.
Self-Driving Car Strikes Motorcyclist
In one case, a self-driving car struck a motorcyclist. At the time of the accident, the police blamed the collision on the motorcyclist, but the motorcyclist was able to settle the lawsuit with GM, which manufactured the AI. GM claimed that the motorcyclist was lane-splitting while the motorcyclist claimed he was attempting to enter a lane that the self-driving car was exiting. When the self-driving car recognized that there was another car speeding up the lane left of it, the self-driving car pulled back into the original lane, striking the motorcyclist. The details of the settlement with the motorcyclist were not announced, nor did GM admit fault in the case.
Talk to a Kansas City, MO Car Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been struck by an autonomous or non-autonomous vehicle, the attorneys at the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm can help you recover damages from the liable party. Talk to us today for a free consultation.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.