Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Causes a Crash?

Who Is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Causes a Crash?

Automobile technology is always improving. The day when all of the cars on the road are self-driving, without a person behind the wheel, may be closer than ever.

Self-driving prototypes have already been created by businesses like Google and are now undergoing testing. These automobiles include cutting-edge auto safety measures that are intended to avoid accidents, but they are not faultless.

In reality, monthly auto accident statistics for the Google Self-Driving Vehicle Project show that the company's self-driving cars have been in at least 16 collisions so far, including two here in Austin.

All of this begs the question: Who is responsible for auto accidents caused by self-driving cars?

Personal or Manufacturer Liability?

There have already been several events involving Google's self-driving vehicles, including a handful of them here in Austin.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, which cites research conducted by the RAND Corporation, many individuals believe that when more autonomous or self-driving cars' legal issues are introduced to the market and engaged in accidents, the emphasis will switch from personal culpability to manufacturer liability. This is a theory that is supported by research.

In other words, if an automotive accident was caused by the negligence of a motorist, the victim is eligible to bring a compensation claim. This accounts for the vast majority of automobile accident claims being submitted right now in Texas and elsewhere in the world.

It is possible that the driver was not at blame for the accident, however, if the car was essentially "driverless" and on autopilot when the incident took place. There is also the possibility that the collision was caused by a defect in the vehicle. Hence, the manufacturer of the car would be held liable.


How Might the Introduction of Self-Driving Vehicles Influence Insurance?

Whenever there is a shift in responsibility, there will always be repercussions for insurance. According to the findings of the RAND study, while it will continue to be mandatory for drivers to carry liability insurance, the kind of coverage that is required may change over time. It is likely that the premiums for other insurance plans, such as comprehensive coverage, will be lower than expected.

The second factor that should be taken into consideration is how individual states can keep their autonomy in terms of insurance rules even as the federal government gets increasingly involved in the process of regulating autonomous vehicles.

The proliferation of self-driving vehicles may prompt the need for greater consistency in auto insurance legislation across jurisdictions, even though states may presently set their auto insurance regulations. The situation may grow much more severe in places like California and Texas, where a high number of drivers go to Mexico each day.

Another conceivable advancement in insurance is the idea that robots should be treated like humans and insured in the same manner as people. This may be the most difficult notion to grasp, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.

"The law should accept that such transactions are like our ties with genuine people," states an article that was published in The Atlantic.

How Can Responsibility in an Accident Caused by an Automated Vehicle Be Determined?

In today's society, the majority of times when an accident does place, there are two drivers on the road (if not more). One of these drivers was likely at fault for the collision.

Yet, if a human-driven automobile and a  driverless car  were involved in a collision, it may be more difficult to ascertain who was to blame. Instead of relying only on the remarks made by drivers, insurance firms may begin to place a larger emphasis on the information that is provided by the electronic control modules installed in vehicles.

It is also possible that the burden of evidence will be transferred from the driver of the other vehicle to the manufacturer, who would be required to demonstrate that their vehicle did not contribute in any way to the accident that occurred.

An article that was published in Scientific American said that "the carmakers will ultimately, and inevitably, have to face the guilt."

Automakers like Volvo and a few others have already said that they are willing to take responsibility for any injuries or damage to property that may be caused by their self-driving vehicles. (The Volvo automobile is not expected to hit the market until the year 2020.)

It is not hard to imagine that manufacturers of completely autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles may be held liable if one of their vehicles is involved in a collision. If it were discovered that a vehicle had a fault and that the defect was the cause of an accident, then the manufacturer of the vehicle would be held responsible today. The laws that regulate product liability might, if interpreted in this manner, be applied to self-driving automobiles, negating the need for such laws to be updated.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the manufacturers may not be eager to settle the claims. Those who have been harmed as a result of crashes will still be required to show the whole extent of their losses. Dealing with insurance adjusters is likely to continue to be difficult in its usual manner.

Would It Still Be Possible to Hold the Owner or Driver of an Automatic Vehicle Responsible?

Unquestionably, there will still be situations in which the owner or driver of an autonomous vehicle may be held responsible for their actions. For example, if the driver decides to take the vehicle off autopilot and drive it themselves, they might be held liable for any accidents that occur as a consequence of their actions.


Additionally, if the owner of a vehicle failed to fix the vehicle, which is conceivable if the owner's carelessness had a role in causing the accident, and the vehicle required service or maintenance to function correctly, the owner may be held liable (as all cars do).

Regardless of whether or not a vehicle was operating autonomously at the time of an accident, the fault may still be contested after the event. If you are involved in a case in which responsibility is an issue, you should make it a priority to get the advice of an experienced vehicle accident attorney in Austin. Dial in right now to find out more information.