Who Is Liable In A Self-driving Car Accident?

Who Is Liable In A Self-driving Car Accident?
Madeleine Jones
January 12, 2021

The automobile industry is getting more and more innovative each year. It has led to the creation of self-driving cars. However, the technology behind it has a long way to go before it is used by everyone across the country. Companies like Tesla and Chevrolet are in the process of rolling out self-driving cars. This brings up a very important legal question: Who is liable in a self-driving car accident?

Tesla factory

Self-Driving Car Accident Examples

Coming up with new technologies is a bumpy road, and autonomous cars are no exception. There have been several accidents involving these vehicles, including some that have caused severe injuries and even death. 

In May of 2016, the first Tesla autonomous fatality accident took place. Joshua Brown was using the autopilot mode while driving in Florida when the car’s sensor system failed to see a large white 18-wheel truck crossing the highway. The reason this happened was that the sky was extremely bright that day. The car went on driving full speed under the trailer because of this sensor failure, resulting in the fatality.

In Arizona in 2017, a pedestrian got killed by another autonomous car. The car was driving at 38 miles per hour and struck a pedestrian who appeared out of nowhere. In 2018, a Tesla Model S rear-ended a fire truck while going 65 miles per hour. No injuries were caused, and the fire truck was not affected, but the crash caused serious damage to the Tesla Model S.

Despite the number of autonomous car accidents, once this technology is perfected it could actually save lives. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 94% of crashes are caused by diver error. By having self-driving cars the number of accidents should go down.

What Are The Different Types Of Self-Driving Car Liability?

The liability in self-driving car accidents is related to the liability that comes with your smart car is involved in an accident. The following are examples of liabilities that apply to self-driving car accidents:

1. Product Liability

This relates to the manufacturer’s liability in terms of strict liability and negligence such as product defects and design defects.

2. Tort Liability

This refers to traditional negligence. The driver of the self-driving car is held liable for any damage caused when he was not being cautious while driving the vehicle.

3. Imposing Liability

The victim can decide which party to pursue involving the car accident, this could be the driver, the company that developed the technology, or the car manufacturer.

When Is the Driver Responsible For The Self-driving Car Accident?

Right now at the stage where self-driving technology is, generally, the responsibility of any car accident is still with the driver. The majority of autonomous vehicles can alert the driver to stop the autonomous mode and take control of the car when a collision is imminent or when there are unsafe conditions. Most crashes happen because drivers disregard these alerts.

Right now, self-driving cars are not fully autonomous. And, until they are and don’t need anyone behind the wheel, any investigation on the accident is likely to hold the driver liable. 

When Is the Car Manufacturer Responsible For a Self-Driving Car Accident?

In some accidents, the manufacturer has been held liable. For example, there was an accident where a Chevrolet Bolt tried to change lanes while on cruize automation. It didn’t detect a motorbike in the other lane. The vehicle sideswiped the motorcycle before going back to its lane. The person driving the motorcycle then sued Chevrolet for his injuries.

When you file a lawsuit against a self-driving car manufacturer it can often get difficult because of the complexity of the technology these cars have. These technologies might be supplied by different companies. This could make it hard to determine which one is at fault. An experienced Las Vegas car accident lawyer can help you look into your particular case and come up with a successful strategy.

Self-Driving Car Accident Attorneys In Las Vegas

If you get involved in a self-driving car accident, navigating through liability and other factors of a lawsuit can be a messy process. Leave it up to Cogburn Law. Our legal team understands the complexity of product liability, especially in self-driving car accidents.

If you’ve been injured in a self-driving accident, we can help. Call us at (702) 748-7777 for a free consultation today!

I wanted to wait until my case ended before writing this review. I can’t speak highly enough of the people at Cogburn Law. I unfortunately was in an accident involving another car last September while on vacation. I didn’t really know what to do but I found their listing online. Jamie and Alex talked me through the entire process and looked after all of my medical worries while they fought the insurance company. Never for one moment was I worried that they wouldn’t be successful with my case. I had access to them whenever I had questions and I never felt like I was being a nuisance. It took a few months but I finally got a settlement that has allowed me to move on with my life. Thanks guys, I’m thrilled that you were the ones that looked after me!

Ned W.