Who is Liable in a Driverless Car Accident?

Driverless Car Accident Sacramento

Will Driverless Cars Decrease Accidents?

Cars that are entirely driverless aren’t quite here yet, but they are coming. Tech companies like Google have been using California roadways for several years now to test out self-driving cars. Driverless cars have been touted as a way to dramatically decrease crashes, particularly those caused by driver negligence (drunk and distracted driving). But, even with driverless cars on our roadways, crashes won’t completely go away. An Uber self-driving car crashed in Arizona back in March and in May 2016, a Tesla in autopilot mode crashed in Florida killing its driver.

Who is Responsible?

The biggest question of course is: Who is responsible for a crash caused by a driverless car? In a regular vehicle that is operated by a driver, it is possible to pinpoint fault. For example, when a driver runs a red light and strikes another vehicle injuring its occupants, the at-fault driver can be held liable for the victims’ injuries and losses. However, who is to be held liable when a self-driving car, for instance, fails to yield the right of way or stop at a stop sign?

The answers to these questions, just like the driverless cars, aren’t here just yet. But scholars and experts in the field tend to have two general assumptions when it comes to driverless cars and liability issues. One, they believe widespread use of self-driving cars will mean fewer collisions. And two, that there will be some shifting of liability from drivers to manufacturers. States are generally responsible for establishing liability and insurance rules and the federal government’s guidance on self-driving cars that was released last year, places that responsibility squarely on the states.

The Issue of Auto Insurance

Currently companies testing self-driving cars do carry auto insurance, as any driver must under state law. Again, with the issue of insurance, the insurance industry must come up with innovative products that fit self-driving cars. Auto insurance companies say they, too, are still working on it. Michigan has been the first state to pass laws regarding driverless cars and insurance. That state’s law says that if a self-driving car’s operating system is at fault for a collision, the manufacturer should be held liable for the damages.

As Sacramento car accident lawyers, we are extremely concerned about the safety of driverless cars. These vehicles should not be put on the road before they are fully vetted and are properly tested. Regardless of how the laws are passed, injured victims of car accidents are still going to need an experienced and knowledgeable car accident lawyer on their side, someone who keeps abreast of the changing and evolving laws in this area. Victims still need an attorney who will fight insurance companies and automakers to ensure that they receive fair compensation for their losses. That part of it is unlikely to change, even with driverless cars.

Were you or a loved one injured in a car crash?  Our Sacramento car accident lawyers can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Call us at (916) 444-0100 for a free consultation and thorough case review.