Determining who to blame for an accident involving a self-driving car can be a challenge. It remains unclear in many states who should be held responsible when an autonomous car malfunctions or crashes. Should it be the vehicle’s owner or operator? Or should the manufacturer of the technology making self-driving cars possibly share the blame? These legal issues will continue to arise as more autonomous vehicles hit the roads.
Serious accidents can happen when a self-driving car fails to operate as it should. Defective sensors or vehicle communications technology have been blamed for many accidents involving autonomous cars. With the lack of uniform safety laws to regulate the testing and use of driverless cars, many states have enacted their own rules. Determining liability for accidents involving autonomous vehicles remains a difficult task in most states. Some of the most common liability issues include operator negligence, owner liability, and product liability for defectively made cars and technology.
Even in most “driverless” cars, a human operator must still be present to take over the car’s control in the event of unforeseen driving conditions. Currently, self-driving cars are unable to perceive and adjust to every sudden and unexpected danger. Until that changes, human assistance to operate the vehicle remains necessary.
As with typical car accidents, injured individuals can file lawsuits against operators based on their negligence in failing to take over the car’s controls. Human negligence will remain a main liability theory for these types of car accidents. However, it remains unclear whether the operator will be primarily liable. At least one car company, Volvo, has promised to pay for any injuries or damages caused by its IntelliSafe Autopilots system should an operator face liability.
Many states hold the owner of a car liable when a vehicle is involved in an accident and the owner consented to the use of the car. This type of liability may also apply to driverless cars when the operator and owner are two separate individuals.
When the operator of a driverless car is an employee acting in the course of their employment, their employer may face similar liability when an accident takes place. For ride sharing companies like Uber, Waymo or Lyft, this becomes another potential source of liability.
When a manufacturing defect in the vehicle causes the accident, compensation may be available under the theory of products liability. Manufacturers, marketers, and distributors of the faulty auto part may share responsibility for any resulting injuries. Both software and hardware designers may also face liability for their mistakes.
Many legal experts believe products liability theory is the best way for an injured person to obtain compensation for their injuries. To succeed in a product liability case, the injured individual must prove a flaw in the design or development of the automated driving technology caused the accident. This often requires the assistance of a skilled personal injury lawyer who has the knowledge and resources to obtain the necessary evidence and build a solid case.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving an autonomous vehicle, the experienced Philadelphia products liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can assist you in filing a products liability claim against the car manufacturer or other responsible party. Our dedicated Philadelphia car accident attorneys represent car accident victims throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including those in the Philadelphia, Reading, Bethlehem, Allentown and Harrisburg areas. To schedule an appointment today, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or submit an online inquiry form.