Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

take note robotsRobotics are taking over an ever-increasing number of jobs formerly done by humans, according to a 2013 CBS 60 Minutes report. This is an advantage for the corporations that use them, but it may leave too many humans on the unemployment line at a time of high unemployment. Robots cost only an average cost of $3.20 an hour to build and operate, and many can be reprogrammed to do tasks other than what they were originally designed to do. Hence they are cheaper than Asian labor, and jobs are coming back to America, just not to American workers. Robots don’t take lunch breaks, vacations or sick leave, nor do they require insurance or a pension.  When they’re worn out, they’re recycled for their parts. They currently run warehouses, hospitals, food preparation and just about everything else, and even robotic surgery is now quite common, although with a trained surgeon at the robot’s controls.

Will the field of insurance law and claims become robotic? Considering that there are few issues where similar claims or litigation have not been resolved in the past, a data bank could be tapped by a robotic adjuster, or in the case of litigation a robotic judge for a predictable verdict. As much of the claim adjusting world has already been computerized, can the law be far behind?

Nevertheless, a robot is not without loss exposures. While they may be cheap to manufacture, they are expensive to design and program. They, like a human, are exposed to external hazards, both in transportation to where they will be installed, and, if they malfunction, they can create tremendous damage. Consider the liability exposure if a robot’s computerized “brain” is programmed with some fatal error that gets placed into every piece of equipment the robot touches. On an auto assembly line, for example, rows of robots weld, fasten, attach and insert hundreds of parts hour after hour. One weak, insufficient or incorrect weld on thousands of vehicles could trigger a government-mandated recall of all those vehicles for correction – a cost probably not calculated into the 60-Minutes $3.20 an hour cost factor. If the robot’s error causes fatal accidents before it is discovered, the cost of all those claims and litigation must also be factored in.

Yes, robots are the tool of the future, but like any tool, they can cause damage. It is these types of potential claim situations that are taught in Crawford & Company Educational Services’ classes and KMC on Demand courses.

This article comes from Take Note, the newsletter of Crawford Educational Services. You can subscribe here.

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