Self-driving cars, also called autonomous vehicles, are increasing in popularity. Some of the most famous car companies in the world, including Mercedes-Benz and Tesla, have put self-driving vehicles on the market.
The great promise of autonomous vehicles is that they will eliminate human error, which is a major cause of car accidents. The thinking is that cars on the road will be more like airplanes and run on autopilot for the great bulk of their trip. However, these cars still rely on human input to a great extent, and automakers emphasize that drivers of autonomous vehicles must pay attention in case they need to take control of a vehicle.
If you were involved in an autonomous car accident, you might be confused about who is at fault. The car accident lawyers at MG Law are prepared to untangle the factual web. Below, we highlight some general principles that guide the determination of fault following a wreck.
The Human Driver Can Be At Fault
Self-driving vehicles are only partially autonomous. They still require considerable human input, which means that the person in the driver’s seat could still be to blame for an accident. Sometimes, drivers are to blame in the following situations:
- The driver turns off an automatic feature, such as automatic braking. Turning off features is often possible in driverless cars. So if a car hits a pedestrian, the driver is to blame for not braking in time if he or she also turned off the automatic braking.
- The driver turns on a feature when it might be dangerous to do so. For example, a driver might rely on cruise control when traffic is heavy. This is a risky choice and could cause a driver to be at fault for the collision since they should have foreseen a crash was possible.
- The driver fails to take back control of the car. Some self-driving vehicles will basically turn off their “autopilot,” forcing the driver to take full control of the car. However, a motorist could be distracted, careless, or intoxicated and unable to do so. This makes the driver liable for any collision.
The above are only some of the examples of situations where a person in the driver’s seat could be at fault even though the vehicle is self-driving. There may be others.
At MG Law, we carefully investigate all crashes. Often, media stories emphasize that the self-driving car is to blame. But when facts come out later, it turns out that the self-driving features were turned off or the driver was otherwise to blame. Never assume that the car is at fault when it could be the driver.
The Car Manufacturer Could Be to Blame
In other accidents, the manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle could be at fault for the wreck. Essentially, the victim would argue that the product is defective. The defect could be:
- A design defect. Something about the car itself or the software that runs the vehicle could be designed improperly. For example, autonomous vehicles rely on sensors around the vehicle to detect objects, including cars and people. The engineers could design the car so that sensors are placed in the wrong spots, leading to conflicting or inaccurate information and a crash.
- A manufacturing defect. A car might have a manufacturing defect that renders it dangerous. Unlike design defects, which show up across the product line, a manufacturing defect only affects a small number of vehicles. For example, the sensors might have been mounted on one vehicle in the wrong place. In other words, the manufacturer deviates from the design, which renders the car dangerous.
- A warning or instruction defect. The manufacturer might have included inadequate safety instructions or warnings. If so, the manufacturer can be at fault for the collision.
It might not be obvious whether the manufacturer is to blame without looking at the car itself and its safety manual. This is why an investigation is critical. As these vehicles become more complex, more can go wrong.
A Different Driver Could Be to Blame
If you were riding in an autonomous vehicle when you crashed, another driver on the road could be at fault. For example, your autonomous vehicle might have been passing normally through an intersection on a green light. If a reckless motorist runs a red light and T-bones you, then that driver is to blame.
It usually takes two drivers to cause a wreck, and you shouldn’t discount that a different driver is at fault. Collect insurance and contact information from all motorists involved at the scene.
Bringing a Claim for Compensation After an Accident
Accident victims will bring a claim against the person or entity which is at fault for the wreck:
- If the driver of an autonomous vehicle is at fault, you would make a claim on their bodily injury liability insurance policy.
- If the car manufacturer is at fault, you can typically sue the company directly.
- If a different driver on the road is at fault, you can make a claim on their bodily injury liability policy.
- If you were at fault as a driver of a vehicle, then you cannot sue anyone unless someone else shares liability with you.
Motorists in Georgia are required to carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person injured, up to $50,000 per accident. If they are uninsured, victims can use their uninsured motorist policy (if they have it).
Don’t be afraid to sue the manufacturer. They should have large business liability policies which can pay compensation to those injured by their malfunctioning products. Unfortunately, many injured victims don’t understand how to obtain full compensation following a wreck and they might overlook manufacturer liability.
Need Assistance? Contact MG Law Today
Accidents involving self-driving vehicles are factually and legally complex. Accident victims would do well to hire a law firm with the skills and knowledge necessary to untangle the morass and identify the correct at-fault party. To learn more, please contact MG Law to speak with one of our Conyers car accident lawyers.