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FOCIS response to Law Commission Consultation on the law relating to autonomous vehicles


FOCIS welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Law Commissions’ joint consultation on the law relating to automated vehicles. We respond to this consultation from the perspective of personal injury lawyers working with the most seriously injured clients, and ensuring that those seriously injured clients have access to justice. Our submission broadly endorses the submissions of APIL, but we have updated or inserted FOCIS specific points in blue text for clarity.


As noted by APIL, an area of serious concern is that there is a loophole in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 which means that the strict liability scheme does not cover vehicles which are on the road currently, which feature partial automation. Those injured by automated vehicles where there is no evidence of fault on the part of a driver currently on the roads will be required to pursue costly and complex product liability claims. It may still be that litigation will involve both driver and manufacturer either because the claimant has to be cautious or indeed the driver or their insurers wish to blame the manufacturer of the car or indeed the software involved leading to lengthy, complex and expensive litigation.


General comments


The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 introduces strict liability for accidents involving automated vehicles. Along with APIL, we welcome that those who are injured by automated vehicles will not be required to pursue a complex and costly claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle, and will instead be able to bring a claim against the insurer. We are concerned, however, that while the Act provides a welcome solution for the future, at present, there are cars being driven that have aspects of automation, but which do not fall within the remit of the Act. These types of car – with automated technology but falling outside of the Act, will only grow in popularity over the next few years. If a person is injured by one of these vehicles, they will not be able to access the strict liability regime as set out in the Act, and will be forced (most likely, unsuccessfully) to pursue a complex and costly claim against the manufacturer.


We agree with APIL’s suggestion that the scope of the 2018 Act must be broadened, to take account of all vehicles with automated features, including those where there must be a human monitoring the vehicle in automated mode. This is even more important when considering the risks of partial automation and the known impact that automation has on the ability of the human user/driver to intervene if there is a hazard. The individual will first need to realise that the car is not going to react to the hazard as it should, and then they need time to intervene – therefore their reaction time will be slower.


The full response is available to download:


FOCIS response to Law Commission Consultation on the law relating to autonomous vehicles


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