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Posted February 13th, 2018 in Top Stories

If Your Car is the Driver, Who is Liable?

On January 22, a lawsuit was filed in in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in which the plaintiff accused General Motors of negligence stemming from an accident where a vehicle deploying self-driving technology collided with the motorcycle-driving plaintiff. The suit is likely one in many to come to answer a central question for autonomous vehicles: who is at fault? “In this case, there is only a negligence claim directed at the manufacturer and there is no claim for strict liability for a design or manufacturing defect which we expect to be made in the future. We are nearing an autonomous vehicles crossroads, and this is a glimpse of what’s to come in the legal realm as car manufacturers and tech companies scale up mass production of semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles,” explains product liability attorney Allyson Petersen, who has been tracking developments in this area at Nilan Johnson Lewis. “As these vehicles increasingly become common to roadways, it’s critical for the required hardware and software to be designed in a way that proactively minimizes risk,” says fellow product liability attorney Sheila Kerwin. Petersen notes human drivers will not be entirely off the hook for liability, as they are expected to remain alert at all times while “driving.” For insights and questions regarding automated vehicle technology, contact Allyson Petersen, 612.305.7726 or, or Sheila Kerwin, 612.305.7515 or

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