Self-driving cars, once considered pure science fiction, now represent a multi-billion dollar industry. They have become increasingly popular on the roads and are hailed as significantly safer than regular cars. But a recent report by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that self-driving cars were involved in nearly 400 crashes in the past 10 months.
In a recent devastating accident, a California couple was killed while in a self-driving Tesla. The married seniors had exited the highway into a rest area. Where the exit lane split between the car and truck lots, the couple’s car headed into the truck lot. The car then ran into a parked truck, which crushed the car’s front end and roof. The truck’s driver was not injured, but both members of the couple died at the scene.
The increasing number of self-driving cars on the road raises a crucial question: Who is at fault when an autonomous vehicle crashes, the driver or the car? In California, the answer may well be both.
Courts typically assign fault for a car accident based on whether either driver was negligent. All drivers have a duty of care, meaning they must be reasonably alert and wary of other cars, pedestrians, bikers, etc. Some states, like California, also have strict laws governing product liability, which hold manufacturing companies responsible for injuries caused by dangerous products, manufacturing and design defects, and failures to properly warn of defects.
In the case of self-driving car crashes in California, the victim may be able to hold both the driver of the autonomous car and the driverless vehicle company liable for an accident. Even in the case of vehicles operating fully in autopilot mode, drivers are still expected to fulfill their duty of care by being prepared at any time to take back control of the vehicle. California also has laws that automatically hold drivers responsible in certain types of accidents, even when the car is in autopilot mode. Victims in self-driving car crashes should thus be able to sue the operators of autonomous cars who did not try to take control during an emergency or who overrode the autonomous system, causing the crash. In fact, this year saw the first felony case brought against a motorist driving with a partially automated system who ran a red light and killed two people.
Car accident victims may also be able to bring a product liability suit against the company that built the self-driving vehicle. These cases can be brought when the accident was caused or partially caused by a defect in the autonomous driving system. In cases where the car’s required safety alert system warns drivers that a mechanism of the autonomous technology has failed, it may be easier to prove manufacturer liability. In other cases, it may be challenging to show that there was a failure with the autopilot system.
Self-driving cars are still relatively new to the roads, making the question of who is liable for accidents involving them open for argument. If you have been injured in this type of accident, you need a skilled personal injury attorney to help you bring the strongest possible case.
Have You Been Injured in a California Car Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a self-driving car accident in California, contact Neumann Law Group today. Our attorneys are experienced, available 24/7, and have recovered millions of dollars for our clients. To schedule a free initial consultation, call Neumann Law Group today at 800-525-6386.