Who Is Liable in a Car Accident with an Autonomous Vehicle?


Picture of two individuals involved in a car accident

The new technology associated with autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles has raised some legal questions among curious drivers. Is the driver or the vehicle responsible for a self-driving accident? Companies such as Uber and Toyota have withdrawn their autonomous vehicle fleets after pedestrian accidents involving vehicles in autonomous driving mode resulted in fatalities. Car manufacturers and technology companies such as Tesla and GM plan on testing self-driving vehicles with the hopes of automating the trucking and ridesharing industries, but the subject of liability still remains a debate.

Understanding Self-Driving Car Accident Liability

Many self-driving vehicles that are currently on the road require a human driver to still be inside. This human presence is what raises the complication of liability during accidents. In car accidents that involve a self-driving car, finding out liability actually works the same way with any other sort of car accident. The same questions need to be brought up, such as:

  • Which vehicle had the right-of-way?
  • Was a traffic law violated?
  • Were there multiple parties involved in the fault for the accident?

However, in self-driving accidents, the question of whether the driver of that car or the car manufacturer is responsible exists as a separate concern. If the accident involved a commercial vehicle, such as the pedestrian accident with Uber, the company’s insurance policy would take liability if the company’s driver or car was found to be at fault.

In non-commercial situations, however, insurance companies and injury courts will need more information, such as whether or not the AV mode was activated in the right location, if there was a software or manufacturing defect, or if the driver could have reasonably intervened to prevent the accident.

If you have been injured in an accident involving an autonomous or self-driving vehicle, the legal process of filing an injury claim can get difficult. Contact a San Luis Obispo personal injury attorney at James McKiernan Lawyers today for more information.

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