Today, many drivers rely on GPS devices or on apps on their phone that provide directions. These maps provide turn-by-turn directions and motorists can follow the computer-assisted guidance to get to their destinations. Unfortunately, sometimes these maps lead people into dangerous places. When they do, questions arise regarding who is to blame if something goes wrong and injury occurs.
With the rise of self-driving cars, which will depend upon mapping apps to tell them where to go, there will be even more issues in the future related to liability when something goes wrong with a map. In any of these cases, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to provide appropriate legal guidance regarding who is at fault.
Most map devices and GPS devices have clear disclaimers that map data may be imperfect or inaccurate. The warnings on GPS and mapping apps alert motorists that drivers still need to pay attention to road signs, look where they are going, and use common sense so they do not put themselves or others into dangerous situations.
Unfortunately, motorists and even pedestrians do not always heed these warnings. One walker, for example, followed the Google map directions on her Blackberry device to walk onto a rural highway where she was hit by a car. In a case called Rosenberg v. Harwood, she tried to sue Google and hold the company responsible for her injuries in the pedestrian accident. She did not prevail and the judge expressly declined to make Google liable, in part because doing so could create near-unlimited liability for auto accidents for companies who make mapping and GPS software.
This case, and others like it, seem to set the trend suggesting motorists are responsible for their own actions, regardless of what a GPS device does. In some cases, this responsibility even extends to facing criminal charges. New York Times reported on one recent tragic accident resulting in the death of a train engineer and the injury of 32 passengers on a commuter train.
The incident occurred after mapping software led a driver to a train track at grade. There were no warnings of the track on the road and when the man drove his truck over it as instructed by his GPS device, his truck got stuck. He abandoned the truck and a commuter train which approached on the tracks was no able to stop in time to avoid a collision. The man who left his truck has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, although he claims he was just getting help.
These cases are an important reminder that ultimately, your safety is in your hands. If you make careless choices, including relying solely on mapping software without paying attention to where you are going and what you are doing, you can be held responsible for the consequences of your actions.