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Who is Liable for a Self-Driving Vehicle Accident?

Posted in Car Accidents,Personal Injury on March 7, 2020

Vehicle technology has quickly evolved over the past decade. However, with the advent of tech such as self-driving or driverless cars that allow passengers to sit back and relax instead of actively drive, accidents involving these vehicles have occurred across the country. In these situations, it can be difficult to determine who is liable for your injuries if you are in a collision with a self-driving vehicle — is it the passenger, the manufacturer, or the creator? A Bakersfield car accident attorney can help.

California Laws for Self-Driving Cars

Although the technology for these vehicles is becoming increasingly more sophisticated, the United States federal government has not effectively put regulations into place to control the manufacturing and testing of self-driving cars. As a result, many states are beginning to draft their own legislation and rules for these vehicles, including California.

Many self-driving vehicles are still in the testing phase, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles requires that all manufacturers who wish to test or deploy these vehicles must obtain a special permit and comply with its regulations.

According to these regulations, manufacturers will need to notify law enforcement, ensure their vehicles contain proper recording equipment, and submit various plans and reports before they test their vehicles. However, even with these regulations in place, collisions can still occur between driverless cars, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the road.

Determining Liability in Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents

When you are in a car accident with a regular vehicle operated by a human driver, the court or insurance company determines fault by looking at the question of negligence. Which driver failed to uphold his or her standard of care while driving his or her vehicle, leading to the accident?

In driverless car collisions, that human element changes significantly. The vehicle may suffer a malfunction internally due to a manufacturing error, the software may not accurately detect hazards on the road, the manufacturer may fail to comply with state regulations — and the list continues.

If you suffer an accident with a self-driving car, there are typically three separate parties you can hold liable in your insurance claim or lawsuit, depending on the cause of the accident.

  • You can file a claim against the owner of the vehicle, typically a company that is testing the technology on public roads.
  • You can file a claim against the manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle, in situations where a manufacturing defect led to the accident.
  • Finally, you can file a claim against the human operator inside of the vehicle at the time of your accident.

Proving Negligence in Driverless Car Collisions

While the laws surrounding self-driving car accidents are still vague, many attorneys and lawmakers continue to apply the standard of negligence when litigating these claims. As a result, you will need to determine the cause of the accident before you can file a claim against any of the three parties listed above, and you and your Bakersfield personal injury lawyer will need to gather the appropriate evidence to prove your claim.

For example, say a driverless car runs a red light and causes damage to the back of your vehicle. You find out that someone was operating the car remotely and failed to stop. In this situation, the operator of the vehicle may be liable. If the operator was a company employee, you can hold the company accountable too.

If the self-driving car had a remote operator, but suffered a manufacturing defect that caused it to run the red light and the operator was unable to override the issue, you would likely hold the manufacturer liable — which may also be the vehicle owner.

While determining liability in a self-driving vehicle accident can be complex, hiring a personal injury attorney with experience working with car accident cases can help you claim the compensation you need to recover. Your attorney will work closely with you to gather all pieces of evidence available, learn your side of the story, and craft a compelling case in your favor. If you have not contacted a lawyer to represent your claim, call today to schedule your free consultation.