Insurance Rules for Driverless Cars Considered in NJ

By Greg Kohn

What Does This Mean For NJ Drivers?

The New Jersey legislature is currently considering a bill that would require owners of driverless cars to have auto insurance. Two other states, Nevada and Florida, have already passed such bills into law. New Jersey car accident attorneys are keeping a close eye on developments and what they mean to residents who may be injured in driverless car accidents.

Currently, auto insurance coverage attaches to the driver of a vehicle, not to the vehicle itself. This makes it simpler for drivers to move from vehicle to vehicle, and it allows insurance companies to base coverage rates on a particular driver’s history and behavior. But what happens when a vehicle that has no driver causes an accident?

Companies like Waymo, a subsidiary of Google, have been testing driverless car technology since 2009. Nine states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that allow driverless car tech companies to test their vehicles on public roads. In 2013, Nevada became the first state to pass a law allowing the average person to use a driverless vehicle, and in 2016, Florida passed a similar law.

Companies that test driverless vehicles have been required to carry significant insurance in case of an accident, according to the New Jersey Law Journal. Under the new bill, owners of these vehicles would be required to have insurance as well.

What Are the New Requirements for Driverless Vehicle Insurance?

If passed, the bill would require owners of driverless vehicles in New Jersey to carry a minimum of $15,000 in liability coverage per person and $30,000 per accident.

Legislators continue to grapple with questions concerning action and fault, however. When a driver is behind the wheel, it makes legal sense to hold that driver liable if they operate the vehicle negligently in a way that leads to injuries. When computer programming and equipment are operating the vehicle, however, it is more difficult to make the argument that a human who was simply riding inside the vehicle caused the accident.

When a driverless car causes an accident, it makes sense to blame the technology operating the vehicle for causing the crash. However, doing so would require driverless car manufacturers to protect themselves against thousands of lawsuits each year—a cost that would undoubtedly be passed down to consumers in the form of higher costs for driverless cars.

An Insurance Information Institute survey from May 2016 found that 50 percent of respondents thought driverless car manufacturers should be held liable if an autonomous vehicle caused a crash, rather than owners or passengers. Only 25 percent of respondents wanted to pay more for their driverless car in order for manufacturers to absorb that liability, however. And 55 percent of those responding said they didn’t want to own or ride in a driverless car anyway—suggesting that, at least in the short term, the average New Jersey resident will not need to consider the question of purchasing additional insurance.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, an experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer can help you determine what happened, protect your legal rights, and secure the compensation you deserve. Contact the auto accident lawyers at Nagel Rice, LLP. We will advocate for you to get you the best possible compensation.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.