Modified: November 18, 2022

Self-Driving Car Accident: Who Is Liable?

Self-Driving Car Accident: Who Is Liable?The world is slowly transitioning towards complete automation and having self-driving cars is one of those steps to achieving that. Although self-driving vehicles initially had a bad reputation, they slowly started to gain traction for the safety and security they offered to the car owner.

However, incidents of crashing self-driving vehicles started to surface, with many questioning who is liable for self-driving car accidents.

What Happens When Self-Driving Cars are Involved in an Accident?

Contact Ehline Law and our experienced car accident attorneys today for legal representation if you’re in a self-driving car accident.

Has a Self-driving Car Killed Anyone?

The first-ever pedestrian fatality that came from a self-driving vehicle was an accident involving a 49-year-old woman, Elaine Herzberg. The pedestrian was crossing Mill Avenue in Pheonix with her shopping bags when she got struck by a self-driving Uber car by a human safety driver, Ms. Rafael. Although the safety driver turned the steering wheel and pushed on the brakes to avoid the collision, it was too late for Elaine, who got hit and died immediately.

This was the first pedestrian accident by a self-driving vehicle, which resulted in a ban on testing autonomous vehicles in Arizona ever since. The family of the deceased filed a liability lawsuit.

However, Uber made a confidential settlement with the family to avoid legal issues. Ms. Rafael got charged with negligent homicide; however, her trial has gotten delayed due to the complexities of the case.

Who Is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Collision Death or Serious Injury?

Typically, driver negligence is almost always the cause of car accidents. Distracted driving and drunk driving are the leading cause of car accidents in the United States and come under negligence since the driver of the vehicle owes the duty of care.

A vehicle’s driver is responsible for exerting enough caution while on the road to avoid incidents involving pedestrians, cyclists, cars, or objects.

When it comes to fully autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, it can be challenging to determine who is at fault, considering the vehicle is doing all the driving. There must be a duty of care to prove negligence and have a liability case.

Vehicular Negligence or Product Liability?

Generally, the liability for accidents by an autonomous vehicle lies with the manufacturers. However, this creates a lot of complexities since GM (vehicle manufacturer) makes vehicles, but Google simply provides the autonomous technology. Many legal scholars argue that there is a shift from vehicular negligence toward product liability. Still, in the case of Uber, there is neither vehicular negligence, since Ms. Rafael was driving and not driving at the same time, nor product liability, as there was no sale of the autonomous product.

In a different interpretation, there can be a case for vehicular negligence if the safety driver was negligent, which could hold Uber responsible. However, there is a lot of ambiguity on this as well, and there is no clear consensus on the matter until a legal precedent is set.

What Happens If a Self-Driving Car Malfunctions?

More than 200 companies and startups are focusing on automotive technology, which shows a trend toward an automotive revolution; however, such feats do come with challenges of their own.

There are three different types of dangers that can occur if the self-driving car malfunctions, and these are as follows:

  1. Autonomous vehicle accidents: Since an autonomous car does not read road signs and follow them accordingly, this increases the risk of an autonomous car accident if there are sudden changes like construction work with road signs or de-tours.
  2. Hacking of autonomous cars: An autonomous car can easily get hacked, leading to a personal information leak or even take the vehicle hostage by controlling it.
  3. Radiation from autonomous cars: With so much wireless equipment within the vehicle, it increases the chances of radiation upon constant exposure due to the electromagnetic field.

Tesla at the Forefront of Legal Battles

Many people know Tesla for its rapid advancements in the EV and autonomous market; however, Tesla has made it on the news multiple times for deaths, property damage, and more. In 2018, a passenger in a self-driving Tesla ended up dead after the vehicle crashed while the passenger was playing video games.

The National Transportation Safety Board argued that Tesla needs to ramp up its basic safety features and improve its self-autonomous capabilities. This was one of many Tesla autonomous car accidents that brought much scrutiny on the US automaker.

Since the incident, Tesla has further improved its safety features and alerts to reduce the risks of autonomous vehicle collisions. However, we might be challenged to place legal responsibility upon independent car makers or technology leaders.

Contact a Top-Rated Car Crash Lawyer in the Event of an Autonomous Vehicle Crash

If you got hurt due to an autonomous vehicle, contact us at (213) 596-9642 and get a free consultation with our expert car accident lawyer today!

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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