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

Posted on June 28, 2023

As autonomous vehicles become increasingly common on the road, they raise questions about responsibility in the event of an accident. Here are the key factors that influence liability. 

The Role of the Manufacturer

One of the primary considerations in determining liability in a self-driving car accident is the role of the vehicle manufacturer. Since autonomous vehicles rely heavily on complex technologies and software systems, manufacturers play a significant role in ensuring their products are safe and reliable. If a crash occurs due to a defect in the vehicle’s hardware or software, the manufacturer might be legally responsible for the accident.

However, manufacturers often have safeguards in place to protect themselves, such as user agreements that may limit their liability. Proving a manufacturer’s responsibility can be challenging, requiring thorough investigation and expert testimony to establish a link between the defect and the collision.

Negligence of the Human Operator

Although self-driving vehicles have driver assistance features that take much of the burden off the driver, a human operator must still be behind the wheel. They must exercise due care and remain attentive while the vehicle is in self-driving mode and ready to take control if necessary. If the human operator fails to intervene appropriately or neglects their duty to monitor the autonomous vehicle, they might be liable for any resulting accident. 

Third-Party Negligence

Liability in self-driving car accidents can extend beyond just the manufacturer or human operator. Other parties, such as the software developer, maintenance provider, or even the municipality responsible for road maintenance, may be accountable if their negligence contributed to or caused the accident. Determining third-party liability requires a thorough investigation and analysis of the specific circumstances surrounding the crash.

Comparative Negligence

In some cases, liability for a self-driving car accident may be shared between multiple parties. Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence principle is then applied, which considers the degree of fault attributable to each party involved. For example, suppose an accident occurred due to a combination of a software glitch and the human operator’s failure to intervene. In that case, both the manufacturer and the operator might be assigned a percentage of liability based on their respective contributions.

An Attorney Can Help

With the legal landscape evolving and autonomous vehicles becoming more prevalent, it is crucial to consult a knowledgeable Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer who specializes in this area to protect your rights and ensure fair compensation for injuries and damages. Determining liability when a self-driving car causes a crash requires a comprehensive analysis of various factors, including the manufacturer’s responsibility, human operators’ negligence, and any third parties’ involvement.

An attorney will carefully review the evidence to determine the degree of fault for each party involved and work to establish a causal link between the self-driving car’s actions or failures and the injuries or damages you suffered. They may rely on expert testimony, medical records, and other evidence to demonstrate how the accident directly resulted from the actions or negligence of the liable party. If you have been involved in a self-driving car accident, seeking legal advice promptly will help you understand your options and the appropriate legal recourse.