No special liability regime has been adopted for AVs. Thus, liability for damages could be allocated to an owner or a manufacturer in accordance with existing civil liability rules on motor vehicles stipulated in the Civil Obligations Act (the “COA”).
Cars in automated driving mode could fall under the of term “motor vehicles” from the COA. In order for the liability rules to apply, a motor vehicle has to be in operation mode meaning that the vehicle is being used for its intended purpose, regardless of whether its motor is running or not.
An owner of a motor vehicle is liable for damages inflicted upon third persons caused by the operation of the vehicle. As the operating motor vehicle is considered to be a dangerous object, the owner’s liability is of an objective and strict nature and the injured party does not have to prove the owner’s fault. Also, the causal link between the damage and the car is presumed unless the owner of the car proves otherwise.
All motor vehicles are subject to mandatory insurance coverage. Thus, it is more likely that the injured party would seek damages from the owner as the damage compensation should be easily obtainable from the insurer.
However, the manufacturer of a motor vehicle could also be held liable in accordance with the COA’s rules on liability for defective products. If the damage was caused due to defects in the vehicle, the manufacturer will be liable regardless of fault. A product will be deemed to have a defect when – taking into account all the circumstances and the manner a product is presented, the purposes for which it can be reasonably used and the time when it is placed on the market – it does not ensure the safety that can be reasonably expected. When relying on manufacturer liability, the injured party must prove that the vehicle had a defect and that there is a causal link between the defect and the damage. These special rules on liability for defective products are applicable to material damage while the general liability regime applies to non-material damage.