Are You Liable If A Glitch In Your Vehicle's Computer Causes An Accident?

Posted on: 25 May 2016

Modern vehicles depend on computer hardware and software to manage their processes and components. As such, they can suffer from some of the same problems associated with computers, such as glitches. In fact, a report released by J.D. Power found reports of software-related glitches in vehicles are on the rise, and there has been a 45 percent increase in recalls for software-related problems. One question that's sure to come up, if it already hasn't, is whether or not a person could be held liable for damages if a computer glitch caused him or her to get into an accident.

Depends on the Circumstances

As a vehicle owner, you are responsible for keeping your car or truck in good working order. This means, in addition to maintaining the physical components such as the brakes and transmission, you must ensure the vehicle's software is up to date. If you fail to properly maintain your vehicle, then you are responsible for any damages or losses that may occur as a result.

For example, the manufacturer identifies a glitch that causes the brakes to fail and issues a recall to fix the issue. If you don't take your vehicle into a shop to obtain the software update and your brakes go out because of it, you may be held partly or fully liable for any accident you're involved in.

You could also be held liable if you do something to your vehicle that causes the computer system to malfunction. This is more of an issue for people who modify their vehicles with aftermarket parts or attempt do-it-yourself repairs. You install a GPS in your dashboard whose software is not compatible with your vehicle, for instance. If glitches develop that affect how your vehicle functions and you get into an accident because of them, you may be held responsible for the crash.

However, you may escape liability in situations where your vehicle's computer system malfunctions for previously unidentified issues. If your vehicle suddenly goes on the fritz while you're on the road and there were no recalls from the manufacturer about the problem, then you may be given a pass by your insurance company or the court since the accident was caused by something beyond your control.

Your Legal Options

On the other side of the equation, you may have a case against the manufacturer of your vehicle if you are in an accident because of a computer issue. Depending on the circumstances, you may have a case for product liability and/or negligence. It's best to discuss this issue with a car accident attorney who can help you determine your legal options and put together a viable case that helps you obtain the outcome you desire. Contact a firm like Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC for more information.