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02/21/22   |   By

Who is Responsible When a Self-Driving Car Causes an Accident?

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Tesla Inc. is the center of investigation following the 2019 fatal Autopilot accident involving a fire truck and a couple in Indiana. In addition to the collision, The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has opened a defect investigation into the company’s driver-assistance feature which may be to blame for at least 16 additional crashes since 2018.

Though none of these cases have gone to trial yet, it makes many drivers wonder, who is responsible when a self-driving car causes an accident?

Does an Autonomous Car vs. Driver Assist System Determine Liability?

The issue with determining liability in a car accident involving a self-driving car ultimately comes down to if the system is a truly autonomous car or is a driver assist system.

According to Tesla’s website, “Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.” However, these systems are not fully autonomous yet.

While this may seem that the liability then falls on the driver, it actually becomes much more complicated, as product defects and manufacturing flaws could actually be the cause of a self-driving car accident.

How is Liability Determined in an Autonomous Car Accident?

In a standard car accident case, two or more drivers are involved in a collision, with fault resting on one driver solely, or both drivers sharing in the blame. However, when a driver is involved in an accident with an autonomous car, liability can becometaking picture of accident scene more complicated.

While driver’s statements, witness testimony, and evidence will still be critical in establishing fault and proving negligence, insurance companies, lawyers, and the court will also need to look towards the electronic control modules within these autonomous cars to determine if there was a driver error, car error, etc.

In cases where neither driver seems to be at fault, product defects may be to blame, shifting negligence to the vehicle manufacturer.

However, this does not mean that it will be easier for victims to secure damages. Instead, the automaker’s insurance companies will likely pressure the other driver(s) to prove the extent of the injuries sustained and losses incurred.

Still yet, the owner of the autonomous car could also be held liable for the collision if the driver is not utilizing the autopilot features and drives the car negligently. Further, if the driver is aware that their self-driving car is in need of maintenance, and fails to seek that service, this can also prove negligence.

I Was Involved in an Accident With a Self-Driving Car. Is it Manufacturer Liability or Personal Liability?

No two car accidents are the same and the same holds true for those collisions involving a self-driving car. As technology changes, it is believed that many accidents involving these autopilot vehicles will shift from personal liability claims to manufacturer liability.

For now, the victim will need to prove negligence and establish the number of damages incurred as a result of the accident.

How to Establish Negligence After a Self-Driving Car Accident

Just like a typical car accident, when a driver is injured or sustains damages following a self-driving car accident, the elements of negligence must be established.
This includes:

  • There was a duty by the other driver to drive carefully, or for the vehicle to operate appropriately.
  • There was a breach in that duty.
  • The breach caused the accident.
  • The victim incurred damages as a result.

Injured in an Accident Involving a Self-Driving Car? Call Regan Zambri Long

Car accidents are complicated enough. But when you are hurt as a result of an accident involving a self-driving, autopilot vehicle, you may wonder who is responsible for the collision.

At Regan Zambri Long, we help drivers who have been hurt in car accidents recover compensation for their losses.

Our team can take on the driver of the vehicle, establishing they were negligent in their actions behind the wheel, or go toe-to-toe with the car manufacturer to ensure you get the compensation you need.

For a no-obligation, free consultation, contact the car accident attorneys of Regan Zambri Long. Our lawyers work on a contingency fee basis meaning you pay nothing until we win.

Call our firm today at 202-960-4596 or by completing our online contact form.

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