Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Who is Liable for Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars?

Who is liable for an automobile accident involving self-driving cars? When the accident is caused by the use of a self-driving car, who should be held for injuries and wrongful deaths? This area of the law is evolving rapidly as companies including Uber, Google, Tesla, and others begin production of autonomous trucks and automobiles. Depending on the cause of the accident, individuals may be able to pursue claims against the vehicle manufacturer, parts manufacturer, driver, or even the software developer. It is highly likely that as this phenomenon begins, that insurance companies will begin defending cases based upon product liability defenses. It will not be helpful to plaintiffs who are injured in car accidents, motorcycle accidents,truck accidents and other vehicular accidents.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration lists driver error as being a factor in 90% of all accidents. However, autonomous vehicles are likely to reduce this number. Although, it will not completely eliminate it since many self-driving cars in development have features that allow motorists to take control of the vehicle as deemed necessary. In fact, it is likely that legislators at the state and federal level will require such options prior to the mass production of autonomous vehicles. This is evident in the NHTSA's "Vision for Safety 2.0" that currently serves as a guideline for autonomous vehicle manufacturer's to follow. As of the end of 2017, legislators in Kansas have not introduced or passed legislation governing liability and autonomous vehicles.

In addition to driver liability, individuals involved in accidents involving self-driving cars may be able to pursue product liability claims against the vehicle or parts manufacturer. This means that individuals could pursue claims when design defects or faulty components such as computers, software, tracking systems, sensors, etc. fail and cause an automobile accident.

Recently, one of Uber's driverless vehicles in Las Vegas failed within the first hour of n the first day it was on the road. The vehicle was transporting passengers when it stopped to allow another vehicle into the roadway. However, when the vehicle approached, the autonomous vehicle failed to anticipate the other vehicle's movement and move itself out of the way.

Many technologies that are being installed on autonomous vehicles are already in common use. For instance, rearview cameras, motion sensors, proximity alarms, antilock brakes, collision avoidance systems, etc. Combinations of these systems are common on many vehicles, so there is already established case law that can be used to establish liability when these systems fail and cause, or fail to prevent an automobile accident.

When it comes to liability for autonomous vehicle accidents, it is important to first understand tort liability in Kansas is similar to many other states and looks at comparative fault, capping a case on fault at 50% which means that if a person is at fault and the jury finds you at 50% or more at fault you lose. If less than 50% you can still recover for your injuries but there will be a deduction or offset in the case value by the amount of your fault percentage.

Brad Pistotnik Law represents clients in Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal, Salina, and cities throughout Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois that are involved in accidents with self-driving vehicles. When autonomous vehicles cause automobile accidents, individuals have the ability to pursue the compensation they need to put their life back together.

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