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Can I Sue if I Was Involved in an Accident With a Self-Driving Vehicle?

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Approximately 94% of all traffic accidents are caused by driver error. This can include mistakes made as a result of drowsiness, distraction, or inexperience, among many other factors. Based on this statistic, many people believe that the roads would be much safer with self-driving vehicles.

This is a valid argument. However, the technology that powers self-driving vehicles is far from perfect. Although self-driving vehicles may reduce the number of accidents, they will not completely eliminate the possibility of traffic collisions. In fact, there have already been a number of accidents involving self-driving vehicles even though there aren’t many of these cars currently in operation.

There’s no denying that self-driving cars are becoming increasingly popular. It’s very possible that these cars will be on roads across the country within the next few years. For this reason, it is important for every driver to understand their legal rights after an accident with a self-driving vehicle. Here’s what you need to know:

Determining Fault in Traditional Car Accident Cases

It’s important to understand how victims can recover compensation in traditional car accidents before learning about personal injury cases involving self-driving cars. If you are injured in an accident with another vehicle, the key to recovering compensation for your injuries is proving liability. You must show that another party, usually the other driver, caused the accident and therefore should compensate you for your injuries. This is typically proven using evidence such as police reports, witness testimony, photos from the scene of the accident, and surveillance footage. If the other driver is liable, their insurance company is responsible for compensating you for injury-related medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

As previously mentioned, it is usually the other driver that is held liable in traditional car accident cases. But, if the vehicle that crashed into you was a self-driving car, this complicates the personal injury case.

Who is Liable For Injuries Sustained in Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents?

There are several parties that could be held liable for injuries sustained in a self-driving vehicle. Although these vehicles are autonomous, someone still needs to sit behind the wheel in order to take control of the vehicle in the event of an emergency. In fact, the person behind the wheel is supposed to stay alert at all times so they can step in when needed. If an accident occurs as a result of their inattention, this could be considered negligence, which means they would be to blame for the victim’s injuries. This is similar to what typically happens in traditional car accident cases.

For example, self-driving vehicles are designed to detect pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles in their immediate surroundings. If the system fails to detect a pedestrian crossing the street, the driver behind the wheel should take control of the vehicle to avoid an accident. But, if the driver does not do this because they were not paying attention to the road, the injured pedestrian could take legal action against the driver.

However, the rules are different if the self-driving vehicle was owned and operated by a company and the driver was employed by the company at the time of the crash. Under the respondeat superior legal doctrine, an employer can be held liable for the negligence of their employees. This means the employer could be responsible for compensating the victims of the crash if their employee was the at-fault party.

The manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle is another party that could be held liable for the victim’s injuries. Manufacturers are liable for injuries that occur as a result of a defective product. Take another look at the example mentioned above. The self-driving vehicle is supposed to detect pedestrians, but in this case, it did not detect the pedestrian before crashing into them. The detection feature clearly did not work the way it was intended, which means it is defective. Therefore, the manufacturer of this vehicle could be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries.

Determining liability in self-driving vehicle accidents is not easy–and recovering compensation is even harder. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that victims seek legal representation from experienced personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. Let an attorney investigate the accident to determine who should be held liable for your injuries. In the meantime, you can focus solely on making a full recovery.

The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles

There are still a number of legal questions that need to be answered before self-driving vehicles are made available to the public. Lawmakers need to address the issue of liability in accidents involving self-driving vehicles so victims do not get wrapped up in lengthy legal battles in the future. For now, most experts believe that manufacturers, human drivers, and employers of the drivers are all parties that could be held liable in self-driving car accidents. However, this is based purely on their interpretation of the existing personal injury and negligence laws.

The few cases involving injuries and fatalities caused by self-driving vehicles have been resolved with confidential settlements, so it is unclear who was held liable and to what extent. Although these three parties are at risk of being liable in self-driving vehicle accidents now, this could change if new legislation is passed or new regulations are established in the future.

Have you been seriously injured in a car accident with a self-driving vehicle? If so, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Let our experienced personal injury attorneys carefully review the details of your case and explain all of your available legal options. Our team works tirelessly to help our injured clients recover the maximum compensation for their current and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".