Jeff Sheppard, Attorney in New Jersey, Explores a New Topic in Personal Injury Litigation: Can You Sue a Computer?

Posted on: March 9, 2018
NEW JERSEY. Artificial intelligence is no longer a dream of the future. According to Above the Law, you may have benefited from artificial intelligence programs as you searched for delivery last night. Companies like Google are already using artificial intelligence to power their search engine. Medical companies are starting to use artificial intelligence to scan medical records and help doctors make diagnosis and medical decisions. Yet, artificial intelligence programs are a new field and sometimes the engineers that make the programs can’t always explain how they work or why they work the way they do. This can create major problems if a computer program’s software decision making process results in a real injury to a patient or person. After all, can you sue a computer?

According to the Independent, artificial intelligence programs are being used in medicine to help doctors scan automatically through the medical records of thousands of patients. By using the vast wealth of knowledge present in this “cloud,” the algorithm can allegedly help doctors make better diagnoses. Rural doctors can enjoy access to knowledge that usually only urban doctors would have with their larger populations. However, such technology raises privacy concerns. It also raises concerns about what should happen if the artificial intelligence program leads a doctor to make a misdiagnosis. Others worry about the medical data being misused by private companies.

Driverless cars will also raise issues about what should happen in terms of litigation when artificial intelligence systems make a mistake. Programmers developing driverless cars will need to make decisions about how these cars should work. For example, should the car prioritize protecting the passengers inside the vehicle or should the program be utilitarian in nature—protecting the greatest number of people, regardless of whether they are inside the car or out. It isn’t clear what the answers will be. However, if you learned that your loved one died because a programmer designed a driverless car so that it would protect the greatest number of people—who happened to be in the other vehicle—would you be able to sue to auto manufacturer?

Defective product lawsuits might be more likely, but artificial intelligence is not understood fully by the courts. In fact, programmers themselves don’t always know how artificial intelligence programs learn what they learn or why they produce the answers they produce. It could be very difficult to show that an artificial intelligence program malfunctioned if we simply don’t know how it works from the inside out.

As it stands, if you’ve been injured in a car accident in New Jersey, or due to workplace injury, you have the right to sue negligent parties under the law. Jeff Sheppard, Esq. is a personal injury lawyer in New Jersey who is closely watching how technology litigation is developing. As companies become more technologically advanced, worker’s compensation claims may change or become more complex. If you’ve been hurt on the job and are having trouble making a claim, visit Jeff Sheppard at to learn more.