Internet connected cars were just the next logical step in tech, giving us access to all of our friends, music, and communications from behind the wheel. But that was before the Great Car Hacking Scare of 2015. Ever since a couple hackers showed how easy it was to mess around with the controls and disable a Jeep Cherokee, owners of the latest and greatest in automotive technology have been worried about their own rides getting hijacked by a far-off laptop.
But is your car really in danger of being hacked, and if it is, who would be liable if you got into a car accident?
Car accident liability starts with the driver, so you would need to show that your car was definitely hacked and that you took all the necessary precautions to keep from getting hacked. For instance, in response to the Jeep hack, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recalled 1.4 million vehicles to deal with "remote manipulation" of connected vehicles. If you were aware your car was vulnerable to hackers and didn't abide by the recall or take steps to prevent it, you could be on the hook in an accident.
The hackers themselves could face civil and criminal liability for causing an accident. Nearly every state has computer crime laws that make accessing secure networks and computers a crime. In addition, if the accident resulted in injuries or death, the hackers could be charged with reckless endangerment or more serious offenses.
Hackers could also be sued for damages under theories of recklessness or for intentional torts. Of course, applying criminal or civil liability to the presumed car hackers would mean somehow tracking them down in the first place, which may be difficult.
Finally, auto makers themselves could be held liable for accidents if they knew or should have known their cars could be hacked. Product liability holds companies responsible for keeping consumers safe from potential hazards. In this instance, Fiat Chrysler was quick to recall cars as soon as it learned of the vulnerability. But if an accident occurred first or happens with another hacked vehicle, and the company making and selling the car had any idea of the hacking vulnerability, it could be held liable for the accident.
You may want to consult with an experienced injury attorney if you've been involved in a car accident.