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How autonomous cars could change insurance

Some Mississippi motorists may be looking forward to the wide introduction of self-driving cars, and these are expected to make highways safer. Experts say autonomous cars will significantly reduce the incidence of accidents caused by human error, but there will still be potential for other types of incidents. For example, software in a car might malfunction and cause a crash. Safety features, such as collision avoidance systems, might fail.

When accidents happen in cars driven by people, investigations focus on which driver may have been at fault, or if both were at fault. They might look at whether a driver was speeding or ran a red light. When they happen in self-driving cars, the focus may be on the manufacturers or the software developers.

The auto insurance industry is likely to change in response to these changes. The focus will shift from identifying the responsibility of drivers in accidents to looking at product liability.

However, until this happens, the main cause of car accidents will probably continue to be human error. Many accidents are caused by distracted driving or other actions that may not result in a criminal charge, such as driving while fatigued. An individual who is injured in such an accident might expect compensation from insurance, but sometimes, the compensation offered is low. The injured person might then be able to file a lawsuit against the driver even if the driver was not charged in the accident or if the driver faced charges and was found not guilty. In a successful civil lawsuit it will be necessary to present a preponderance of evidence to demonstrate that the driver was negligent. This is a lower burden of proof than proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the requirement in a criminal trial.

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