Self-Driving Cars Are Here. So, Who is Liable if One is Involved in a Crash?

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man with an autonomous driving vehicle

There is a technological revolution underway in the American automotive industry: autonomous vehicles that, to varying degrees, drive themselves with little control or input from a human driver. Many manufacturers are developing self-driving cars, but there is little legislation or regulation. The industry is expected to be valued at over $500 billion by 2026, which means that we can expect to see more of these vehicles on the road in the coming years.

The New York and Long Island car accident attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C. have been monitoring the technology and the insurance and liability issues involving self driving vehicles. We want to be sure we can offer constructive advice to our clients who own, or want to own, such a vehicle, and to advocate for those who get into a collision involving a self-driving vehicle. If you or a loved one were injured in a crash involving a self-driving car, call us at 855-TOP-FIRM to discuss your situation with one of our knowledgeable team members today.

The Rise Of Self-Driving Cars

As more and more vehicles with self-driving features are sold to the American public, the issue of who might liable in the event of a crash becomes even more important to answer. We are still at the very beginning of the autonomous revolution, and that means that more questions about liability will arise as more collisions occur.

The autonomous vehicle and liability roadmap will likely look something like this:

  • Develop the technology adequately – We are still years away from having marketable self-driving cars on the road. In fact, many manufacturers are defining “self-driving” technology in unique ways that don’t overlap with other car companies.
  • Test the technology – Just determining if the self-driving technology chosen by a given manufacturer meets the requirements of consumers who must use them will be a complex process. This testing is closer to a lab test than a road test.
  • Road tests will need to be performed under real-world conditions – This will be expensive, time-consuming, and with considerable risk for both drivers of autonomous vehicles and drivers of conventional vehicles. There will undoubtedly be many incidents of collisions where liability is a big, complex issue.
  • Stakeholders, including the insurance industry, manufacturers, regulators, and the public, will have to go through a process of writing insurance regulations that are perceived as fair and work for everybody. This is probably the single most time-consuming process of them all.

Who Is Responsible In The Event Of A Crash?

Even cars with sophisticated self-driving technology are getting into accidents. A Tesla with two passengers crashed into a tree in Houston in April 2021, but investigation revealed that Autopilot, Tesla’s autonomous driving technology, was overridden by the driver. There have been over 20 accidents involving cars with autonomous driver technology.

We need to review these and other crashes to determine what factors contribute to accidents between conventional and autonomous driven cars. According to the company, Tesla’s Autopilot requires active driver supervision, but it can accelerate, brake, and steer the car without supervision. There currently is no technology available that makes any car entirely self-driving. Unsurprisingly, the automated technology appears to effectively encourage drivers to become distracted, rely too much upon automated features, and get into accidents. Even with the current level of autonomous technology development, the issue of liability can come down to something drivers and insurance companies are very familiar with: not paying adequate attention to the road.

Injuries Caused By Self-Driving Vehicle Crashes

Current autonomous driving technology focuses on braking, accelerating, and steering the car. If the driver is negligent in some way, or if the technology fails, a severe or fatal injury crash could easily occur.

Like most vehicle crashes, drivers and passengers involved in self-driving car crashes are at risk of suffering injuries including:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Head, face, and neck injuries
  • Back, spine, and spinal cord injuries (including paralysis)
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Burn injuries
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Soft tissue injuries

If a driver failed to pay attention or use self-driving features responsibly, they could potentially be held liable for your injuries and other losses. Also, if the vehicle manufacturer or another responsible entity was negligent in some way and the autonomous driving features failed, those who were injured in the crash could potentially seek compensation from them.

Because this technology is so new, it is wise to hire an experienced car accident attorney to help you. A lawyer who understands the emerging self-driving vehicle technology and how to investigate these crashes will be a vital asset to you when seeking compensation from the at-fault party or parties.

Compensation For Injuries in a Self-Driving Car Crash

While there are some additional liability and litigation issues relevant to autonomous driving, did the technology work as it should have during the accident? Were there any maintenance issues? Was the driver of the autonomous vehicle paying attention and able to correct the vehicle before the crash? However, for the most part, injury compensation and possible legal liability for self-driving cars are still much the same as conventional vehicles. What is important is to hire an experienced New York car accident attorney who understands these and other liability and car insurance issues. If you’ve been injured, call Finz & Finz, P.C. at 1-855-TOP FIRM for a free consultation to discuss your rights and legal options.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.