Many of the changes the insurance industry is fighting to keep pace with these days will also require changes to laws and legislation. Consider the information obtained from telematics, personal tracking
devices and social media to name a few. The courts are just beginning to set
the precedents that will determine how this information is accessed and used
in the future.
Ride-sharing and other “sharing” businesses have created a new economy
that also requires new legal precedents, insurance policies and laws. The
advent of autonomous cars highlights the need for the courts, and especially
legislation, to change in order to accommodate this new technology and
actually allow its use by consumers.
Our cover story this month takes a look at some of these issues and explains
the various types of “autonomy” that can be found on today’s (and tomorrow’s)
vehicles. From cars that offer automatic breaking and parallel parking to
those that are fully autonomous, the technology is exciting and offers a
host of possibilities, however, current laws and regulations could prevent the
mainstream use of automatic cars unless they are updated to encompass these
types of vehicles.
Who is liable in the event of an accident is a major consideration. Consider
an autonomous vehicle that makes a right-hand turn on a red light during a
period when such turns are not allowed and either causes an accident or injures
a pedestrian. Is the manufacturer liable or is the driver who had yielded control
to the vehicle? Under current laws, automatic cars aren’t even able to be legally
driven on many streets. Federal and state laws will need to be updated now in
order to accommodate these advances in the future.
When the winner of this year’s ACE/Claims Magazine Legend Award began
practicing law in the 1970s, none of these insurance factors like ride-sharing,
cybercrime and autonomous cars were even a consideration. Today, they are
creating new coverage opportunities (and headaches) for insurers who are
trying to quickly adapt as quickly as their inventors can develop and market
them to consumers.
As our winner says, the practice of law has not changed substantially, but
the same cannot be said for the insurance industry.
In all likelihood, the practice of law will change too and new precedents will
be set as the legal system addresses these issues. Hopefully technology will
help us keep up with the changes if we can keep up with the technology.
Patricia L. Harman, Editor-in-Chief