How should personal injury insurance cover automated vehicle crashes?

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a discussion paper examining whether there is a need to change existing compulsory motor accident injury insurance schemes to cover automated vehicles.

NTC Acting Chief Executive Dr Geoff Allan said motor accident injury insurance (MAII) schemes across Australia differed in the ways they provide compulsory personal injury insurance cover for crashes, and those differences could create uncertainty on how crashes involving an automated vehicle were covered. “We are working with state and territory MAII agencies and treasuries to consider the best way to ensure that personal injury insurance arrangements across Australia are clear and are in place in time for the commercial deployment of automated vehicles.”

He said the discussion paper, Motor accident injury insurance and automated vehicles, identified barriers to accessing compensation under existing MAII schemes, and sought views on whether MAII schemes or other insurance options should provide cover for injuries caused by an automated driving system. “In general, these laws were set up to cover injuries caused by human error rather than product faults. First and foremost, laws in most states and territories do not contemplate a non-human driver controlling a vehicle. In addition, several jurisdictions require human fault to be proved for compensation to be paid,” Allan said.

The paper looks at six options, the first three are based around existing MAII schemes and the last three options suggest new approaches. “It is for precisely these reasons that we are working with states and territories on a solution to ensure no person is worse off when injured by a vehicle with an automated driving system engaged,” he explained. Options under consideration include relying on the existing legal framework, expanding all MAII schemes to cover injuries caused by an ADS, a purpose-built vehicle scheme, through to allowing private insurers to cover property damage and personal injury cover.

Allan stated that the NTC welcomes submissions from insurers, manufacturers, legal experts, academics and individuals. You can access the discussion paper here and submissions can be made via the NTC’s website  here. Submissions will be open until 12 December 2018, with recommendations due to transport ministers in May 2019.