What the emergence of autonomous vehicles means for insurance claims

Peter Schifrin, president of the independent adjustment firm Schifrin, Gagnon & Dickey, Inc. in California discusses the latest developments with autonomous vehicles and their potential impact on claims.


John Chuba: Welcome to Best’s Insurance Law Podcast, the show about timely and important legal issues affecting the insurance industry. I’m John Chuba, managing editor of Best’s Insurance Professional Resources.

We are pleased to have with us today Peter Shiffrin, President of the Shiffrin, Gagnon and Dickey, a California company that provides quality claims adjustment, investigation and TPA claim administration services. Peter is also the current president of the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters.

Peter, we are very glad to have you with us today.

Peter Shiffrin: It’s great to be with you.

John: Today’s discussion is the advent of autonomous vehicles and the potential impact on insurance claims. Peter, what is the expected time? How are things going in California?

Peter: We are certainly at the forefront of autonomous vehicles hitting the road. We have many users. If you look at how the expected deployment is, we have a lot of vehicles that are in that phase two where there’s a lot of sensors and a lot of assistance and a little bit of autonomous driving.

John: In terms of claims adjustment, what is the anticipated or anticipated impact?

Peter: There are a few problems. The hope is that when vehicles become fully autonomous, there will be

a dramatic drop in injuries because everyone expects vehicles to be better drivers than people.

Funny enough, what we’re seeing so far is that these vehicles are very expensive when in an accident to repair because they have so much technology in them that even a small fender bender ends up being a very large property damage claim. Although accidents may be decreasing, the cost of claims may actually be increasing.

John: Are there new areas that might open up as a result? As an example, you mentioned different types of claims. I know that computer technology was mentioned as a possible target for liability purposes.

Peter: yes Interesting. Lawyers should always have someone to sue after an accident. It could be that instead of suing the driver, they’re suing the manufacturer of the vehicle and all the companies that were involved in creating that vehicle or all the components in that vehicle, because those are the people who are actually going to be potentially liable.

John: What’s the latest in technology, not just for auto claims, but for claims in general on the West Coast?

Peter: As I mentioned before, I read the other day that phase three vehicles, which for the most part will drive you around, with some exceptions, those vehicles are about three years away from being on the road.

I was listening to a podcast recently where a woman said she still thinks we’re 30 to 50 years away from full autonomy because of the technology and because of how many non-autonomous vehicles will still be on the road and figuring out how to get them off the road. I think you will see improvements in vehicle safety all the time, which will hopefully lead to fewer accidents.

John: What about future expectations, Peter? It looks like it’s going to be a bit further than perhaps originally expected.

Peter: yes The challenge for the most part is perhaps not the technology improving to the point where the car can drive itself and you don’t even need a steering wheel, but that there are so many vehicles on the road that won’t be autonomous.

How do you tell someone, “You can’t drive your 2006 Camry anymore. We want it off the road so we can have full autonomy”? Yes, it looks like we’re at least a generation away from that, from what everyone says.

John: Peter, thank you so much for joining us today. Peter: It is my pleasure.

John: You just listened to Peter Shiffrin, the company’s president Shiffrin, Gagnon and Dickeyin California. Special thanks to today’s producer Frank Vowinkel. Thanks everyone for joining us for the Best Insurance Law Podcast.

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I’m John Chuba, and now this message.