Skip to main content
  • Insurance Attorney Self-Driving Car Accident: Who Is Liable?

    Self-Driving Car Accident: Who Is Liable?

Are you an expert witness, victim, journalist, technology author, or other expert seeking knowledge about self-driving cars? We want to know what you have to say about driverless cars too. Call our office at (833)-LETS-SUE.

For decades, motor vehicles have offered humans freedom and control over their own lives in ways their ancestors could only dream about. Finally, roads linked humanity together, with goods speeding along at unimaginable speeds. Trains, seaports, and airports soon became shipping hubs for large wheel trucks towing trailers. But the future also came with diesel pollution and the risks of serious injuries and deaths, even with highway safety regulations and mandatory vehicle safety features.

The Modern Changes in U.S. Society

Many traditional Americans complain that modernly academia and so-called progressives have been pushing humans into thinking freedom is bad or “selfish.” The reasons given, for example, are greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, and virtually anything you can think of as a justification to lock yourself down and keep YOU safe. The World Economic Forum (WEF), Communist China, and their allies are moving the world toward fully automated systems and globalist control (cashless society, social credits, etc.).

The politicians they donate money to are helping, attempting to regulate the most menial tasks humans perform, eventually even monitoring our thinking and brain waves. The idea is, unless you are a politician or the person calling the shots, you should not drive, fly or do anything that would cause more pollution outside of your “15-minute city.” The self-driving car has become one of the first steps towards achieving this goal. Once you have never learned or cannot legally operate a vehicle anymore, you will be totally at the mercy of the state to get from point A to point B using its government-run assistive technology.

Civil rights advocates urge you to pay attention to your loss of autonomy under the guise of safety. With a complicated car like this, the government will have the power to shut down your vehicle until you have enough social credits to go on your way. If the technology is defective, people can die, as had already happened in California during the testing of autonomous vehicles by Uber and Tesla, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Communist China has successfully silenced most opposition to its government internally by automating its economy and tying your freedom to travel and even buy food to your submission to the party.

Libertarians warn that having an opinion different from groupthink will place even your car on lockdown. Initially, these vehicles were viewed negatively by most people in the United States, especially the insurance industry. Hence, these technologies are already proven to bring internal dissent to heal. The goal of all tyrants is now before us all, with the manufacturers often receiving a tax break from the politicians seeking this type of power.

Has a Self-Driving Car Killed Anyone?

Yes, there have been incidents where self-driving cars have been involved in fatal accidents resulting in the death of pedestrians or drivers. However, the fatalities caused by self-driving cars are still relatively low compared to the deaths caused by human-driven vehicles.

One of the most well-known incidents involving a self-driving car was the 2018 Uber crash in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian during a test drive. 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 Tempe 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 was delayed due to the complexities of the case. The incident raised questions about the safety of self-driving cars and prompted a temporary suspension of Uber’s autonomous vehicle testing program.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the incident and found that the Uber self-driving car’s sensors detected Herzberg six seconds before the crash. Still, the vehicle’s automated system did not properly identify her as a pedestrian until 1.2 seconds before the impact. The NTSB concluded that the accident was caused by a combination of human error and technical flaws in Uber’s self-driving system.

Another incident involved a Tesla Model S that was operating in Autopilot mode and crashed into a tractor-trailer in 2016, resulting in the death of the Tesla driver. These incidents have highlighted the importance of safety regulations and testing protocols for autonomous vehicles and the need for ongoing research and development to ensure that self-driving cars can operate safely and effectively on public roads.

Public Perceptions About Self-Driving Car Accidents

Traditional Christians, Libertarians, and Conservatives are among the few people left who want less government and automation in their daily lives. But the airwaves and for-profit media have pushed society into believing self-driving cars offer better security and are equipped with better safety features. However, due to the increasing number of fatal accidents involving self-driving cars, the debate continues over who should be held legally responsible for a self-driving car accident with respect to personal liability.

It is generally believed by the masses that the at-fault driver is responsible for any self-driving car accident. The idea is that their liability insurance company remains responsible for paying any damages that the other driver, occupant, or pedestrian suffered. However, it is not always easy to determine who is liable for a self-driving car accident since the motor vehicle driver relies on the engaged self-driving features.

Testing Phase

Additionally, tech companies like Google are also getting into the game. But due to the nature of the technology involved, it is not yet clear how legal professionals and insurance companies will handle the liability of self-driving cars on our nation’s highways. Depending on the situation, the manufacturer, the software developer, and the human involved in the self-driving car accident may be held liable. But after over a million miles driven in Tesla vehicles, in certain circumstances, a crash occurs. This raises questions over manufacturer liability and comparative negligence of the driver for relying too heavily on this experimental technology and unproven sensor systems in autopilot mode.

This uncertainty over artificial intelligence used by fully autonomous vehicles makes it especially important to speak with a self-driving car accident attorney at Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC.

Self-Driving Cars Aren’t Driverless

The federal government agency, NHTSA, claims that most car accidents can be caused by human error, not the automated driving system controlling these driverless cars. To help prevent non-self-driving crashes, car companies have started equipping their vehicles with various driver-assistance systems. Some of these include blind-spot detection, lane assistance, emergency braking systems, and cruise control. The evolution of self-driving capabilities is simply a natural direction from human-driven cars.

The development of fully autonomous cars is far beyond what most vehicle manufacturers and engineers previously thought. They’re working on making a driverless vehicle that can be programmed to make a driver optional. While this technology is useful, the cars on the road today aren’t fully autonomous. They still need a human operator to take over whenever needed.

The Society of Automotive Engineers outlines levels of automation:

  • Level 0: The driver performs all aspects of driving, including steering, braking, and accelerating.
  • Level 1: The driver assists with certain aspects of driving, such as steering or braking, but still maintains full control of the vehicle.
  • Level 2: The vehicle is capable of both steering and acceleration/deceleration, but the driver is still responsible for monitoring the environment and taking over if necessary.\
  • Level 3: The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions, but the driver must still be ready to take control if requested by the vehicle.
  • Level 4: The vehicle can perform all driving functions and operate without a driver in certain conditions but may still have a steering wheel and pedals for manual control if necessary.
  • Level 5: The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions and does not require a driver or manual controls.

In 2016, Business Insider conducted a thorough investigation of driverless cars. B.I. claimed that there would be 10,000,000 self-driving cars by 2020. However, in 2019, only over 1,400 of the vehicles were being tested. There are currently no Level 3 cars on the road. This is because the complexity of the task of developing and deploying these vehicles has been more than expected.

Few Vehicles On Roads?

Although most drivers won’t encounter self-driving cars on American roads until they are more common, those who have been hit by one should be compensated. One of the main factors that have delayed cars with self-driving capabilities is the risk of crashing. There is a lot of data to be collected to determine their safety for mass road use. Along with the possibility that people could be hurt or die, there are no precedents set on how the courts would deal with a case involving a self-driving car. In fact, at the time of our 2016 article, only five states had approved self-driving cars for use in tandem with human drivers.

Over 29 states in the U.S. have enacted legislation that would allow the use of self-driving cars. Although Illinois has laws that allow self-driving vehicles on its roads, states like Missouri do not. As a result, the state has little precedent for responding to accidents involving these types of vehicles effectively.

Who is Responsible for a Self-Driving Car

When it comes to seeking compensation for injuries caused by a car crash involving one or more autonomous vehicles, the situation is different from that of other accidents. The person who caused the accident is usually held responsible for the damages. However, in many cases, it’s not always easy to identify fault in self-driving car accidents.

Like other car accidents, the malfunction of the vehicle’s components can cause problems, especially for the vehicle manufacturer, in the form of a lawsuit. For instance, if the brakes fail, the driver might not be able to prevent the crash. If the vehicle’s manufacturer is responsible for the malfunction, the injured person might be able to seek compensation.

The technology designer of self-driving cars may be responsible for the various sensors and software used in the vehicle. If something goes wrong, the developers of the system could be held liable for causing the car accident. It’s a big challenge for fully autonomous vehicles to figure out how to integrate all of these components into a car so that it can detect different road conditions.

For instance, if a child’s ball gets on the road, the car’s sensors and algorithms must analyze the data and decide whether to hit the ball or swerve to avoid a self-driving car accident. A human driver would use their natural reflexes, muscle memory, and judgment to make the appropriate decision.

Due to the complexity of the situation, human occupants and other parties involved in a self-driving car accident may try to blame each other for the damage. But clearly, if the vehicle was bad, the manufacturer was also on the hook. When it comes to a self-driving vehicle malfunctioning, even lawyers have a hard time figuring out who to sue in court, opening them up to legal malpractice claims.

What If Self-Driving Cars Caused an Accident?

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

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.

Determining liability in a self-driving car collision resulting in death or serious injury can be complex and depends on the specific circumstances of the incident.

Liability could fall on a number of different parties, including:

  1. The manufacturer of the self-driving car: If the accident was caused by a defect or malfunction in the self-driving system, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the autonomous technology could be held liable.
  2. The operator of the self-driving car: If the accident was caused by the actions or inactions of the human operator, they could be held liable.
  3. The owner of the self-driving car: If the accident was caused by a failure to properly maintain the vehicle or ensure that it was operating safely, the owner of the self-driving car could be held liable.
  4. The other driver or pedestrian involved in the collision: If the accident was caused by the actions of another driver or pedestrian, they could be held liable.
  5. The government or road authority responsible for maintaining the infrastructure: If the accident was caused by a failure in the road infrastructure or traffic control systems, the government or road authority could be held liable.

It’s important to note that liability laws vary by jurisdiction and could change as self-driving technology continues to develop. Legal experts and policymakers are currently working to develop frameworks for liability that account for the unique challenges and opportunities presented by self-driving cars.

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 provides the autonomous technology. Many legal scholars argue that there is a shift from vehicular negligence toward product liability. Here, there was no sale of the experimental autonomous product, making typical liability sketchy.

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, and there is no clear consensus on the matter until a legal precedent is set.

What Happens If Self-Driving Vehicles Malfunction?

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

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 taking 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.

Many people know Tesla for its rapid advancements and manufacturing in the E.V. 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, essentially, 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 greatly scrutinized the U.S. automaker.

Since the incident, Tesla has further improved its design, 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, not just the person in the driver’s seat. We can also help deal with the shifty insurance adjusters and others denying your justice. In some cases, we may vehicle manufacturers may be held strictly liable for your injuries. We will help you determine liability.

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

If you have a question or comment or wish to speak with a top-rated injury attorney, Ehline Law Firm can make it happen for you. And in today’s world, this is exactly what you need. 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. We stay alert 24/7 to discuss your unique situations as consumers today! We are ready to respond appropriately, help you seek justice, and fully compensate you.

Firm Archive

Main Los Angeles Location

633 W 5th Street #2890 Los Angeles, CA 90071 (213) 596-9642.
Animation of injury lawyer, Michael Ehline Animation of injury lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.