What You Need to Know About Self-Driving Car Accidents

Self-driving cars are a reality now and so are the personal injury claims that come after an accident involving one. With this new technology comes uncertainty about who is at fault and how to recover compensation for damages. If you or someone you know has been injured in a self-driving car accident, understanding the legal landscape is key to navigating a successful personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll discuss who may be assigned blame in these accidents and what steps to take afterward.

The Different Parties Involved

In a self-driving car accident, it can be confusing to determine who should be held accountable. It’s not always clear where liability lies—the driver, the technology company, or the manufacturer of the vehicle? Generally speaking, it is possible for any of these parties to be held responsible for damages, but typically, the person behind the wheel will be responsible. 

Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles are responsible for designing and producing safe cars as well as staying up-to-date on relevant safety regulations and standards. If there is a defect in the design or manufacture of a vehicle and that defect causes an accident, then manufacturers may be held liable for resulting damages, as would be the case with any “normal” car manufacturer. Technology companies that provide the software or hardware driving these cars are also potentially liable for any defects in those components that cause an accident. But, drivers are expected to use reasonable care while operating their vehicles and could be held liable if they fail to do so even when utilizing autonomous features. Drivers continue to be the party who most likely will be responsible for an accident because at this time, most “self-driving cars” are only partially autonomous. These vehicles still need input and supervision by the driver in order to be safe. 

Legal Considerations

When assessing blame after a self-driving car accident, it is important to understand applicable laws and regulations associated with this technology as well as common law principles such as negligence and recklessness. Depending on where you live, different laws may apply when determining who is at fault in an autonomous vehicle accident. Fault may also depend on the extent to which the car is expected to operate without driver input. At this time, drivers still bear primary responsibility for damage caused by their vehicle. As technology advances, we can expect changes in the law to follow. Technology often moves faster than the law, however.   Laws are also constantly evolving as states continue to update existing statutes and introduce new ones regarding self-driving cars. Additionally, common law principles such as negligence per se (negligence established by violation of statute) and comparative negligence (when two or more parties contribute at least partially to causing an accident) may come into play in determining liability after a self-driving car crash.

If you purchase a vehicle that is fully or partially self-driving, you should make sure that you have appropriate vehicle insurance in place. You should also check the current state of the laws in your state regarding who is responsible for what happens in a self-driving vehicle and the extent to which you are required to remain actively involved with the basic functions of driving.

What to Do After an Accident

If you’ve been involved in an accident involving a self-driving car or another type of autonomous vehicle technology, it’s important that you take steps immediately after the incident occurs in order to ensure your rights are protected and you receive appropriate compensation for any damages incurred. First, seek medical attention right away—even if your injuries seem minor at first—since symptoms can worsen over time and some conditions might not present immediately. Second, document everything related to your claim including photos, diagrams, contact information from witnesses, medical records, repair estimates, injury symptoms, etc. This evidence will help strengthen your case against negligent parties. Finally, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can handle self-driving car accident claims. At Morefield Speicher Bachman, our knowledgeable attorneys will help guide you through the process and make sure you receive fair compensation for any harm caused by another person’s negligence.

We Are Here to Help

With the advent of self-driving cars, there are new legal questions about who bears responsibility after an accident occurs involving these vehicles. This is a fast changing area of technology and law. If you have a question about a self-driving vehicle accident, call us so that we can help you based on the latest legal technological changes. This is an area where changes will be likely to occur between the time we wrote this article and the time you read it.  If you have been injured in a self-driving car accident and require legal counsel, contact an attorney at Morefield Speicher Bachman today.