Dec 13, 2018

Whether you're a techie or not, you probably know that artificial intelligence (AI) is likely the wave of the future. From self-driving vehicles to surgeries performed by machines and robots in the workplace, AI has been heavily invested in, and the progress is astounding. In fact, many believe that in the future, robots will be everywhere, potentially even living like humans. But despite all the advancements thus far, AI isn't perfect, and scientists, engineers, and lawmakers haven't yet worked out all the kinks, especially as they pertain to liability when something goes wrong and a human is injured.

And something going wrong isn't unheard of. Not only did an autonomous vehicle hit a pedestrian earlier this year, but just this week, a robot in a New Jersey-based Amazon warehouse punctured a can of bear spray, sending numerous warehouse workers to the hospital. Here's the story.

Robot Sets Off Bear Spray, Injuring Amazon Employees
According to a story published at, 24 Amazon employees (all humans) were sent to the hospital after a robot working within the warehouse set off a can of bear mace, and 30 more were impacted by the bear mace exposure. Bear mace, which contains concentrated capsaicin, deters bears from attacking by causing swelling of their mucus glands and eyes, giving a potential victim time to escape (similarly to how pepper spray works against human attackers). According to reports, at least one employee was in critical condition, although further details have not been released.

Amazon hasn't exactly been forthcoming about the details of the story, stating that a full investigation is underway. At this point, however, no one seems to know exactly how the robot punctured the can of bear spray, and some are asking whether or not this is the start of the "robot uprising" (unlikely).

Who's Liable for a Robot's Actions?
Not only does the incident, and others like it that have occurred involving other companies' robots in the past, raise questions about the safety and efficacy of using robots in the workplace, but it also engenders inquiries and controversy about the potential liability surrounding robot-related incidents and human harm.

Because this incident happened in the workplace, it's likely that workers' compensation insurance will cover any of the workers' injuries. However, a worker may also maintain a claim against the manufacturer of the robot that alleges that machine was inherently dangerous, or that a defect caused it to make a dangerous mistake. Other, non-workplace-related injury claims involving robots typically seek to hold the manufacturer of that robot liable for harm, depending on the circumstances.

It's Time to Get a Qualified Lawyer
Those who are harmed by the actions of artificial intelligence may have questions about their rights and options - the best person to answer those questions is a qualified attorney, preferably one who has managed claims involving artificial intelligence in the past.

At the law office of Anderson Hemmat, our Colorado personal injury lawyers are passionate about providing competent representation to our clients, whether injuries were caused by a human's actions or a robot's. If you have suffered harm in an accident involving any type of AI, please don't hesitate to call our law firm for a free consultation. We are available to talk on the phone, in person, or by chatting online today.


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