Lieberman, Ryan & Forrest, L.L.C.
Somerset County
Hunterdon County

Can third-party liability attach to a robotic coworker?

If you have been injured on the job, seeking workers' compensation benefits generally starts with notifying one's employer of the accident. However, it's also a good idea to consult with an attorney who can help to document the facts of the workplace accident. An attorney can also advise you of other potential sources of relief.

Regardless of fault, injuries at work can qualify for workers' compensation benefits. That means that workers' compensation benefits are usually offered in exchange for a waiver of a civil lawsuit. However, there can be exceptions, as in the case of a coworker who intentionally caused the accident. Gross negligence is another exception to the no-fault rule, as in the case of an employee who was so accident-prone to others that an employer might be viewed as responsible for failing to intervene.

In a new twist, a recent article explores whether an error-prone robotic coworker might lead to the same result. Considering their track records -- 20 fatalities have been attributed to industrial robots sharing workspaces with human coworkers -- the answer to that liability question seems to be yes. Yet would a third-party claim lie against the manufacturer of the robot or the employer who placed it in close proximity to human workers?

As a law firm that focuses on personal injury and workers' compensation law, we know that each workplace injury must be thoroughly investigated. Gross negligence depends on the facts, and that may require an attorney's eye. The same is true for proving intent. Finally, keep in mind that an attorney can also help in the adversarial nature of discussions with an employer's insurance provider.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Cobots: Making It Safe for Humans, Robots to Work Side-by-Side," Olivia Solon, Aug. 25, 2015 

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