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Who Is Liable in Auto Accidents with Driverless Cars?


It’s a technological marvel – Autonomous Vehicles (AV) and cars with Autopilot on the street.  Radar and cameras scan the road to keep the car within lanes.  It brakes and accelerates to avoid and pass other vehicles automatically. But is it fail-proof? Who is responsible when a driverless vehicle is involved in an auto accident?

Some claim driverless vehicles are the solution for traffic, carbon emissions, and car accidents.   Others express concerns the accident risks exceed their advantages.

Are these mechanisms of Artificial Intelligence capable of adjusting to any traffic condition in real time?    Can they adapt to the sometimes crazy driving we see on the road every day?  Until Artificial Intelligence successfully integrates with human drivers – who are prone to errors and accidents – how do we address crashes with these marvels?  Who is responsible for damages?  The owner who purchased the vehicle?  The manufacturer?  The software developer?   The passive driver doing something other than actively avoiding the accident?

The answers to these questions are challenging.  As a personal injury attorney, every day I am personally involved in fighting for those who are injured as a result of the recklessness and negligence of others.   Injuries sustained in car, truck, and vehicle accidents can be severe and life-changing.    And, as driverless cars impact the auto industry, legal standards are also evolving.

The Liability Problem.

Current driving regulations and laws are based on drivers, the human operator, as the party responsible and accountable for vehicle safety on the road.  When crashes occur, the driver’s insurance company must pay for damages resulting from the crash.    That is our legal standing.

However, liability in situations with Autonomous Vehicles/driverless cars is complicated and multi-dimensional.

Degree of Autonomy.

Currently, these vehicles still require the involvement of a human driver.  Driverless cars are currently designed to minimize, but not exclude the driver’s involvement.  Autonomous features like self-parking, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, and automatic emergency braking are becoming more common.

As technology continues to evolve, the failure of these complex technologies must assume some responsibility and accountability for accidents.

Sharing the Blame?

While it’s still too early to clearly address liability for fully Autonomous Vehicles, the law as it stands today is simple.  Human beings cannot delegate driving responsibility to their cars.    Even if the automated system has been deployed, a human must be ready to override the system and take control.

However, as technology advances, vehicles with automated systems create the likelihood that multiple defendants are possible:

  • The manufacturer.
  • The company writing the software.
  • Sub-contractors making the components.
  • The fleet owner (such as Uber; Google ‘s prototypes don’t have steering wheels or brake pedals).
  • The passive driver.

Establishing liability and responsibility from this list of possible defendants will require technical forensic investigations.  Black boxes from the vehicles will be studied in a time-consuming process.  Today’s mostly straightforward standards will be lost to a complicated and controversial set of arguments.

The Solution.

New regulations are necessary to specifically address liability in these matters.  A new statutory scheme is needed because otherwise, it will be too costly for individuals to pursue damages from an automobile crash.

To receive justice, legislation is necessary.  Only new laws can create the new standards for this dazzling technology that is likely to change driving as we know it.

We Help Victims.

The Attorneys at Friend, Levinson & Turner Law are knowledgeable and expert in representing those who are victims of the negligence or carelessness of others.  Claims for victims of automobile and vehicle accidents are complex and frequently multi-dimensional.

Insurance companies rely on professional adjusters to negotiate and fight accident claims.    In order to deal with these professionals, you need a skilled auto- accident attorney to protect your rights.   We know your rights and the applicable laws.  We are your advocates.

We are experts at negotiating with powerful insurance companies.    Fifty years of experience counts.

The Attorneys at Friend, Levinson & Turner Law make the legal process as stress-free as possible.  We focus on recovering compensation for you – while you concentrate on your physical and emotional recovery.

If you or a loved one is injured or a victim of the negligence of others, please call my office at 312-346-8465 or contact us using the form below.

author avatar
William Turner
William J. Turner

William Turner has represented hundreds of working men and women who have been victims of the negligence of others – gaining equitable compensation for the medical expenses and pain and suffering for his clients. He concentrates his practice in the trial of complex personal injury cases, including car and truck accidents, construction mishaps, medical malpractice, dog and animal attacks, nursing home abuse, and slip-and-falls. Additionally, he offers niche counsel and advocacy for workers who are injured on a job.

William has obtained judgements from juries in approximately 150 cases and has secured fair and comprehensive settlements in even more over his career. William Turner has dedicated his professional life to fighting for the rights of those who are injured as a result of the negligent acts of others.

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