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Driverless cars and liability in Connecticut

Connecticut is taking the lead on the future of driverless cars, more technically known as autonomous vehicles. The state has set up a task force to look into the issues of control and, most importantly, liability in the event of an accident.

It is unclear exactly what will come from the task force set up to investigate how the law will change to accommodate driverless cars at this time. It is likely that liability will mainly fall to the owner. But will it be shared with the manufacturer or operator at the time? These questions and many more will be decided in coming months.

Current state of law

In 2017, the state legislature authorized the creation of pilot programs in New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, and Stamford. In addition, a task force was set up to evaluate the liability issues that arise and make recommendations for future laws.

The task force has yet to meet, and the pilot programs are still being fleshed out. The questions that they will be raising are critical to the proper safe and legal operation of vehicles which we know are coming to Connecticut roads in future years.

The question of liability

The central question of liability is an issue in all states  as driverless cars become a reality. A recent accident with one in Arizona has increased public awareness and sparked a lot of interest. Connecticut is ahead of most states and leading the way to resolving this critical issue.

From the perspective of negligence, the existing legal framework provides a guide. All drivers owe a legal duty to other drivers to provide safe operation on the roads. But the second part of the negligence test, committing an act which breaches that obligation is tricky.

Was the fault part of the design of the car, or some action by the operator? That will probably have to be established on a case by case basis in any accident. But if the same framework applies for driverless cars as it does for ordinary driven cars we can expect a lot of conflict in this area.

Damages

In all cases, it is a matter of actual damages realized. Any car accident can cause a loss of another vehicle, injury, and death. We have yet to have a specific case of a driverless car in Connecticut to test the existing laws.

When one does occur, which is likely sometime in the future, Connecticut is trying to be ahead of the curve and ready to ask the important question as to who is at fault. As it stands now, there are many open questions as to how this will take place.

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