Predicting subrogation of autonomous vehicle claims? Not likely.

Predicting subrogation of autonomous vehicle claims? Not likely.

virginia subrogationA recent article published in the Fall 2014 Subrogator magazine penned by Glenna Roberts of Roberts, Matejcyk & Ita, demonstrates that no one in the subrogation industry really knows what changes will be wrought on the subrogation industry by autonomous vehicles.  Titled “Advanced Technology Equals Advanced Subrogation?”, Ms. Roberts’ article discusses the development of autonomous vehicles in a more cursory fashion than my own article but attempts to assure readers that basic investigation principles will remain constant into the near future.

While the conclusion that sound investigation techniques including: gathering evidence, enlisting the help of experts and interviewing witnesses will undoubtedly continue into the future is sound, this is hardy reassuring.  What about the very nature of automotive subrogation claims?  Will tort claims even exist, or will car crashes be relegated to breach of warranty claims between the car manufacturer and the driver who must arbitrate any disagreements?  Not to mention the economic threat that large fleets of autonomous cars pose for the insurance agencies themselves.  If the risk of accidents drop precipitously, then so do rates and premiums.

Another facet overlooked by the article is the likelihood that autonomous vehicles employ multitudinous sensors.  These would likely record the movement of the vehicle and many other variables, thus rendering much of the investigation done today, namely witness interviews, largely moot.  And while critical thinking and careful investigation are timeless aspirational qualities, where uncertainty is eliminated by technology there will be a reduced need for those people investigating these types of claims.