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Who Is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Accident?


Modern technology has made it possible to purchase a vehicle that will allow you to sit in the driver’s seat, read a book, or play a game on your mobile device, without having to pay attention to the road in front of you.

Self-driving cars are capable of navigating through busy traffic, and as technology progresses, more companies are utilizing self-driving vehicles to make deliveries and transport cargo and passengers. Although self-driving cars are a technological milestone, the law has been slow to set clear rules for when these vehicles are involved in an accident.

In March of 2018, a transportation company field tested self-driving cars to pick up its passengers in Tempe Arizona. During one of these field tests, a self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian on the road while it was in self-driving mode. At the time of the accident, an employee of the company was leisurely sitting in the driver’s seat. The entire incident raised serious legal questions about which party is liable for personal injuries caused by self-driving cars.

Determining Liability for Self-Driving Car Accidents

In 2012, the State of Florida legalized the use of “autonomous vehicles” on public and private roads. Florida law defines an autonomous vehicle as one which “enables the vehicle, on which the technology is installed, to drive without the active control or monitoring by a human operator.”

The law has always held that drivers have a duty to use reasonable care and caution while operating a vehicle. Drivers who do not exercise reasonable care and end up causing a serious injury can be held liable for damages. The driver of an automobile does not have the absolute right to rely on third party direction.

Trying to apply these standards to self-driving car accidents can be very complicated. Is the computer of the self-driving car considered a third party? While someone using a self-driving car is likely to rely on the computer, their reliance on the technology depends on how closely that person is watching the road. If the driver is required to focus on the road, it defeats the whole the purpose of using a self-driving car.

Operators can also send a self-driving car to a destination without ever getting inside of it. In this situation, the law is unclear if the operator is fully liable for injuries caused by the car. The law is also unclear how liability will be apportioned if a regular vehicle being driven negligently by a driver causes a collision with a self-driving vehicle. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions have yet to be addressed by courts.

Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney in Pensacola

Have you or a loved one suffered a personal injury in a self-driving vehicle accident? If so, you should call our team of lawyers to discuss what legal options are available to you. Our lawyers are here to guide you through the legal process and help build a legal strategy that will protect your rights. We are prepared to fight for you.

Call (850) 607-2929 to schedule your free case evaluation with a Pensacola personal injury lawyer.