Automated vehicles are becoming more common, which leads many to wonder what happens in the event of an accident. Who is responsible? The answer will vary depending on the details of each crash, but some general discussion about liability and self-driving vehicles is informative.
What do we know so far?
Thus far, self-driving vehicles are generally held to the same standards as regular vehicles. If the vehicle is involved in an accident and the crash was the result of negligent or reckless behavior, liability exists. But this is where it gets complicated — who bears that liability?
Although a handful of these accidents have already happened, the manufacturing companies behind the vehicles have opted to settle the cases outside of court. This means these cases have not moved forward through our court systems, so we do not have previous cases to provide guidance. However, it appears that the three options that hold true for a traditional accident will also apply when the accident involves an automated vehicle. They include:
1) The driver. Cases often start with a review of the driver’s actions before and during the time of the crash. Were they paying attention and obeying traffic laws? Or were they distracted, driving too fast or otherwise negligent?
2) The owner. Even if someone else is driving, the owner of the vehicle could be responsible for the accident. This can happen in a number of situations, like if an owner lets someone drive when they know that person was not able to drive safely either because they were too young or drunk.
3) The manufacturer. The manufacturer of the car can be responsible if there is a defect with the vehicle.
Whether open to a settlement or looking to go through litigation, it is important to know that you do not have to go through the process alone. You can get professional help to advocate for your interests, giving you more time to focus on healing and getting on with your life.