Can you sue a GPS manufacturer?

Drivers should se their own judgment and not assume the GPS is giving them the right directions.
Drivers should se their own judgment and not assume the GPS is giving them the right directions. (Photo: iStock)

This news story made national (and even international) headlines: a Kitchener, Ont., woman misled by her GPS on a rainy, foggy night last week ended up taking a wrong turn that led her right into Lake Huron.

The wrong turn took her into Little Tub Harbour and while her car sank she was thankfully able to roll down the window and safely swim back to shore, escaping the frightening accident uninjured.

Hers is not the only scary incident blamed on a faulty GPS.

A group of travelers nearly drove off a cliff in Utah, after their GPS gave them faulty directions. Thankfully they stopped just in time and a search and rescue team managed to find them the next day.

With numerous accidents and close calls attributed to faulty directions, could you sue a GPS manufacturer if their equipment is at fault?

There is currently a case before the courts in the United States in which victims of a 2013 bus crash are suing the GPS navigation manufacturer for leading them onto a road with height restrictions after their bus had hit a low overpass.

Could we see a similar lawsuit in Canada?

Unlikely, according to Osgoode Hall law professor Allan Hutchinson, who told The Globe and Mail ,”If you decide to follow bad advice and get into an accident or do an illegal U-turn and get caught, that's not going to get you off”.

In addition, GPS devices come with terms and conditions that say the GPS may not be fully accurate in giving directions and drivers usually have to acknowledge those disclaimers before being able to use the equipment.

What should drivers do to protect themselves?

Use their own judgment and not assume the GPS is giving them the right directions.

The law in Ontario is that a driver needs to program their GPS before they start driving and they are not allowed to touch it while they drive.

Karen Bowman, founder of Drop It and Drive told The Globe and Mail, “and if it [the GPS] suddenly stops working or starts giving you directions that don’t make sense, ignore it until you can safely park and reset it”.

In other words, the GPS is not always right.

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