Would Lawsuits be Less Frequent with Self-Driving Cars?

Self-driving cars have been in the news a lot lately and some of the news has not been good. But, as the technology advances and self-driving cars become more prevalent on the market, they could wind up lowering the frequency that drivers file lawsuits.

The companies developing self-driving cars right now include FiatChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and others. These companies were asked by a group of ten United States Senators whether they will use a contract with car owners that limits their right to sue should an accident occur with a self-driving vehicle.

The letter sent to automakers across the country was headed by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. The group of Senators are concerned that automakers will use forced arbitration clauses in contracts with vehicle owners and even passengers that would limit the liability faced by vehicle manufacturers and ride-sharing programs should a crash occur.

Liability cannot be reduced when it comes to automakers, especially after the self-driving car crash in Phoenix in March that killed a pedestrian. As autonomous cars become more popular, automakers should be held accountable for mistakes that cause accidents involving these vehicles.

Multiple consumer groups, including the Center for Auto Safety, have said that forcing drivers or passengers to go to arbitration prevents them from potentially joining a class-action lawsuit. These groups have also said that this would shift power to big businesses and that big businesses are typically the ones who hire the arbitrator, which would be a set up for repeat business.

The letter sent to automakers had the following message, according to The Detroit Free Press:

The use of forced arbitration clauses by manufacturers would deprive consumers of their fundamental legal rights if injury occurs and would reduce the incentives of some manufacturers to keep vehicles safe.

Aside from the automakers listed above, the letter was sent to a total of 60 companies, all of which have some sort of involvement in the manufacturing and use of autonomous vehicles. So far, none of the automakers that received the letter have responded to it.

For over 20 years J. Price McNamara, a car accident attorney with the Law Offices of J. Price McNamara has been fighting for his clients in court. His proven track record and limited caseload philosophy have given him a strong reputation in the state of Louisiana, follow him on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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2 Responses to “Would Lawsuits be Less Frequent with Self-Driving Cars?”

  1. Warren says:

    “As autonomous cars become more popular, automakers should be held accountable for mistakes that cause accidents involving these vehicles.”

    Actually politicians should be held liable for allowing this crap in the first place!

  2. John Carr says:

    Anybody with enough money to buy a self-driving car is likely to have good insurance, so an arbitration clause would matter mainly for the rare accidents that exceed policy limits. And the car makers can’t prevent pedestrians who didn’t sign the contract from suing.

    I’d be more worried about mandatory arbitration for warranty claims. Your car is a lemon, but you waived the lemon law by signing the contract.