Determining Liability for a Self-Driving Car Accident

Self-driving cars are becoming commonplace as more automakers debut autonomous technology in their newest models. If you get into an accident with a vehicle that was using self-driving technology, recovering compensation for your losses can be challenging. You may need help from a Las Vegas car accident attorney to determine financial responsibility, or liability, for the crash.

Factors Considered When Determining Liability for a Self-Driving Car Accident

After a car accident involving a self-driving vehicle, an investigation will be done to determine causation. Common causes of these collisions include sensor malfunctions, software glitches, human error, bad weather and road defects.

Investigators may assess various aspects of the car accident to determine its cause, including:

  • The level of automation used (fully vs. partially self-driving)
  • How the autonomous system functioned and behaved
  • Whether the vehicle’s sensors or cameras malfunctioned
  • How the vehicle’s software reacted to a foreseeable hazard
  • The actions of the human operator (if any)
  • Road, weather, visibility and environmental conditions

An investigation may involve a visit to the scene of the accident, analyses of photographs and video footage, interviews with eyewitnesses, and hiring experts to assess the software and hardware involved in the autonomous technology.

A Human Driver or Operator

Most “self-driving” vehicles on the road today are not fully autonomous. They are semi-autonomous, meaning they still rely on human input, operation and supervision. If a self-driving car detects a hazard that it cannot avoid, for example, it may warn the human driver to take evasive action.

If a driver does not pay enough attention to the road while autonomous features are engaged, he or she could be held accountable for a related car accident. If the driver does not take control when warned to do so by the vehicle’s autonomous system, for example, the driver’s car insurance company can be held responsible for the costs of a crash.

The Manufacturer of the Self-Driving Car

A self-driving car accident case could involve the legal doctrine of product liability rather than negligence. Under this law, manufacturing companies are held responsible for injuries caused by their defective products. If an automaker released a self-driving car with part or software defects, it could be held liable for related car accidents under the rule of product liability.

In a strict product liability case, an injured consumer does not have to prove that a manufacturer was negligent, or failed to use ordinary care. It is enough to demonstrate that the product contained a defect and caused the accident or injury in question. In a self-driving car accident case, an automaker can be held liable if the car contained a design, manufacturing or marketing defect that contributed to an injury.

A Third Party

If someone else caused or significantly contributed to the self-driving car accident, such as the driver of another vehicle, the manufacturer of a specific vehicle component, an employer, a company or the government, this party could also be held liable for its role in the collision. In Nevada, multiple parties can share liability for a single accident.

To find out who may be held liable for your recent self-driving car accident in Las Vegas, consult with an attorney at Koch & Brim, LLP during a free consultation.