Who Is Liable in Accidents Involving Self-Driving Vehicles

Who Is Liable in Accidents Involving Self-Driving Vehicles?

by Andrus Becki

The future is here, and self-driving vehicles are no longer just a cool thing we imagined would happen one day. It’s an amazing development for sure. However, this new technology brings all kinds of new laws that need to be made as well as other safety protocols put into place to ensure everyone is safe and people are held responsible if any problems do arise.

When you think about self-driving vehicles, your mind most likely jumps to the potential for major problems. With such new technology comes a lot of kinks that have not been worked out or even realized yet, especially for the everyday driver. If you are in an accident with a self-driving vehicle, who is liable? Is it the owner of the car, the vehicle manufacturer, or others responsible? It’s a good idea to educate yourself about self-driving vehicles and how this new technology will affect you.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Some types of automated safety technologies come standard in most cars today. These include:

  • cruise control
  • seat belts
  • antilock brakes
  • airbags

We continue to see new, advanced technology emerging that assists drivers in staying safe and keeping others around them safe as well. Some of these features include:

  • blind-spot detection
  • lane-departure warnings
  • stability control
  • forward collision warning
  • rearview video systems
  • automatic emergency braking
  • lane centering assist
  • traffic jam assist
  • adaptive cruise control

Soon, fully automated safety features will be installed in new cars, assuring a new level of safety for everyone. New technology poses good and bad side effects.

How Are Self-Driving Vehicles Different from Advanced Driver Assistance Systems?

Now that we’ve seen the types of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that have been introduced to the public so far, how are these different from self-driving vehicles? Are they different? The answer is yes! (ADAS) requires a driver to still pay full attention to driving while receiving assistance and added safety support from the car itself.

When it comes to a self-driving vehicle, they do not need a person to pay attention at all. In fact, the car would be able to operate without a human inside altogether. While these cars are becoming closer to being a reality on the roads, they are still being tested and are always overseen by a safety driver.

Current Accident Liability

In normal car and driver accidents, the crash is mainly caused by some wrongdoing on the driver’s part. This can result from distracted driving, not obeying the law, or simply an accident. Usually, the driver of the car at fault is held liable for any negligence or harm that was done to the other driver or car (or property), and compensation is rewarded accordingly.

Driverless Vehicle Liability Today

What happens when a self-driving car or driverless vehicle is in an accident? What happens when the accident, injuries, and damage is due to the self-driving car’s fault? As we know, negligence is applied to the party at fault. When we say “party,” we mean the person or driver at fault. There is no current law addressing a vehicle that is at fault or negligent.

Today, if you were in an accident with a self-driving car and wanted to sue for injuries, etc., then you would have to go after the manufacturing company of the vehicle itself. You would not be able to sue the car owner at all. You can only imagine how that lawsuit will go and how long it could take to navigate through a case with a large vehicle manufacturer.

Manufacturer Liability

Self-driving vehicle manufacturers and big technology companies are investing billions of dollars in the making of new driverless cars. At the same time as developing these groundbreaking vehicles, they also must plan for the liability that will be facing them. You better bet that this new technology will be examined in the event of any kind of accident, and responsibility will easily be shifted to the manufacturer instead of the traditional driver being at fault.

These cases will indeed become complex and involve manufacturers, supply companies, technology companies, and more, resulting in high legal costs and time spent. Where insurance companies will be involved and to what extent is still to be seen, but all levels of coverage are sure to be a must for everyone.

Looking Ahead

You might be wondering what can be done to protect yourself and those that will be “driving” self-driving cars. Hopefully, lawmakers are looking ahead and planning for laws to address liability and more when it comes to driverless vehicles.

Until those bigger laws are really addressed, maybe something could be done at a state level. Some say that making the owner of a self-driving vehicle liable and legally responsible for any damage done to people or property, whether it is their fault or their car’s fault, would be the first step. Then if it is believed that the fault was because of a defective part or technology on the car, the car owners’ insurance would file a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Ready or Not, Here They Come

Whether we are ready for self-driving cars to hit the market or not, they will be here before we know it. We will be much better off if we, as consumers, fellow drivers, and pedestrians, are aware of the current laws and work to help our lawmakers move towards permanent laws addressing self-driving car liability. Staying one step ahead of what’s to come is always a good idea when it comes to legislation.

If you find yourself involved in an accident of any kind, the attorneys at Wormington & Bollinger are ready to help with your case. While self-driving vehicles are not the norm right now, there is automated safety technology that can be faulty and contribute to a car crash. For additional information on Wormington & Bollinger’s experience in car accidents and personal injury cases, contact us today.

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