The Legal Complications of Self-Driving Cars: Who is Responsible When Fatalities Occur?

The list of advantages to self-driving cars is long, if you listen to the companies that make them, but they are not perfect vehicles. Even if they do make the roads considerably safer, they are not going to be completely accident-free. So what happens when a self-driving car is at fault for an accident? Or worse, what happens when a self-driving car causes a fatal car accident?

There is no question that this is a complicated personal injury issue that will be sorted out in the courts as these vehicles become more common. However, at The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker we do have some facts for you. Read on to learn about what we know now and then contact us at 800-333-0000 if you are in need of a free legal consultation with a personal injury lawyer.

It Can Be Difficult to Determine Fault in Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars

One of the issues is that it can be difficult to determine who was at fault. In a typical car accident case, your attorney would start by investigating the accident to find out what caused the accident to occur. There could be more than one factor and experts may be required to help investigate – especially those with experience in autonomous vehicles if the case involves one.

Once the cause of the accident has been determined, fault can be assigned to various parties depending on their level of fault. At this point, the case can be settled or, if the parties can not agree on fault and damages, the case can go on to a jury or judge trial.

Remember the Three Steps Required in Proving Negligence

In order to understand how and when you can hold various parties liable for a self-driving car accident, it is important to remember that three elements must be proven to prove liability:

  1. The party owed a duty of care to the party that was injured
  2. The party that owed a duty of care breached that duty via actions or lack of actions
  3. The breach of duty directly caused harm or death to the victim

In the issue of self-driving cars, this means that if the vehicle was only partially autonomous, the operator could be at fault for not paying enough attention. Even if the car is entirely self-driving, the operator is still required to be able to take control if the vehicle encounters an emergency.

Does that mean that the operator is always 100% liable? No. If the accident occurred as a result of poor manufacturing or a malfunction of the self-driving mechanism, then there could be a variety of other parties at fault including the company that designed it, the manufacturer of the vehicle, and any mechanics who worked on it. To learn more about your case and what your options are, contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 for a consultation.