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Motor vehicle automation and the issue of liability, P.2

In our last post, we began discussing the need to address the issue of liability in light of increasing motor vehicle automation, and the advisory guidance released last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As we noted, the agency’s guidance leaves a number of regulatory matters squarely in the hands of the states, including automobile insurance regulation and liability, but a more defined approach to regulation has yet to be implemented at both the state and federal level.

Regulating liability among motor vehicle owners, operators, passengers, manufacturers and other parties is an important objective at the state level, and the NHTSA’s guidance leave this authority intact. Of particular importance going forward is the issue of how to assign fault in accidents involving human drivers who rely on vehicle automation. This issue could be complicated by certain technologies which do not require driver operation but do require driver monitoring.

Another important issue is how states answer the question of who should carry insurance to cover risks associated with accidents involving highly automated vehicles. Initially, special policies to cover these risks will be issued, but soon enough they will become mainstream, as vehicle automation becomes more and more common.

Whatever regulatory schemes arise at the state level in response to the adoption of motor vehicle automation, those who are harmed as a result of accidents involving highly automated vehicles will have need of knowledgeable legal counsel to help them seek the compensation they are due from at-fault parties. Whether this means suing another driver for damages, working with one’s insurance company to ensure coverage, seeking compensation from manufacturers for product defects, or pursuing other legal remedies, strong legal advocacy will continue to play an important role in helping accident victims recover. 

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