As the popularity of self-driving cars increases, so does the number of self-driving car accidents. In recent years, accidents that involve driverless vehicles in California have raised some complex and interesting legal issues pertaining to who can be held liable for the damages these accidents cause.

How will liability be established for my self-driving car accident?

Currently, almost all major vehicle manufacturers are creating or testing self-driving cars, and in the United States, hundreds of thousands of autonomous vehicles are already on the roadways. One study reveals that, as of the end of 2022, 36 states were in the process of road testing self-driving vehicles. Although many states have already passed legislation that lays out the definition of an autonomous vehicle and regulates its usage, the law has not done a very good job of keeping pace with the numerous liability issues that stem from accidents involving self-driving vehicles. 

Vehicle manufacturers have reported thousands of crashes involving self-driving cars, many of which resulted in deaths and injuries. The current trend appears to be for the manufacturer to privately resolve any questions of liability with the victims or their families. The manner in which California courts intend to handle liability issues in self-driving car accidents in the future remains unclear.

Legal regulations are and will continue to develop as self-driving vehicles become more commonplace. After a crash involving a self-driving car, it is a good idea to work with a car accident lawyer who has years of experience in successfully navigating these unique car accident claims.

If you were injured in a California car accident that involved a self-driving vehicle, speak with the experienced California personal injury lawyers at Beckerman Anderson Law Firm to determine the most effective way to handle your case.

Who is to Blame For a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Self-Driving Car Accidents in California: A Brief Legal Guide

Autonomous vehicles are a perfect example of what can happen when technology evolves faster than the laws that govern it. Discrepancies such as this can bring about unforeseen consequences and complications for the victims of these types of accidents. The laws that California’s state legislature chooses to implement over the next few years will have a significant impact on victims’ rights.

In many states, the insurance company of the driver of the at-fault non-autonomous vehicle is financially liable for any losses sustained in an accident. So, if a vehicle is self-driving, is it liable for the accident? If these vehicles include software that executes up-to-the-second decisions, does that mean the software is the driver? Does the computer programmer who designed the software program share in fault? And, if the car is piloted by software, is it appropriate to assign blame to the human who happened to be sitting in the driver’s seat? When it comes to these and other matters, the law is still learning and growing.  

When pursuing financial compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident, self-driving or otherwise, the first stage is establishing who was to blame. Where self-driving car accidents are concerned, one of three parties is most often liable:

  • The owner of the self-driving vehicle
  • Another driver
  • The manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle

California law regarding self-driving cars states that the driver of an autonomous vehicle is required to follow state driving laws and abide by basic safety protocols. This includes maintaining a position that lets them take control of driving factors such as the gas pedal and the brake should the need arise. If a driver is found in violation of these laws, they may be held accountable for failing to provide proper oversight. 

Anytime an accident involving a driverless vehicle takes place because of a technological malfunction, the company that manufactured the defective part or the vehicle itself could be held liable. Autonomous vehicles contain multiple elements that all have to work together to make the car function properly. If any part of a driverless vehicle fails or malfunctions, resulting in an accident, the manufacturer or designer could be found at fault. 

Proving Fault After a Self-Driving Car Accident

Proving fault for a self-driving vehicle accident follows much the same pattern as any other vehicle accident case. To start with, the lawyers representing the individual parties will conduct a thorough investigation into the events surrounding the crash.  

Self-driving car accidents, however, have the additional complication of figuring out whether or not self-driving technology had a hand in causing the collision. It might even prove necessary to bring in expert witnesses to testify about what went wrong and how it contributed to the accident. 

Compensation After a Self-Driving Car Accident

Collecting financial compensation for a self-driving car crash depends solely on proving liability. Once a driver or vehicle manufacturer is found to be liable for the incident, they can then be held responsible for any ensuing losses and damages. 

Our California car accident lawyers can help you calculate a fair compensation package. Personal injury damages are comprised of both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages consist of tangible losses you can easily prove, like hospital bills, lost earnings, and physical therapy directly relating to your injuries. Non-economic damages are designed to compensate you for your subjective, non-monetary losses, also known as emotional damages. These can include emotional trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and diminished quality of life. 

In some instances, the court may also award punitive damages to the victim. Unlike the previous two types of damages, punitive damages are not compensatory but rather intended as a punishment for perpetrators who displayed deliberate misconduct or gross negligence.  

Pursuing Financial Compensation For a Wrongful Death

If you lost a family member in a self-driving vehicle accident, our skilled car accident lawyers can help you pursue financial compensation for your loss via a wrongful death suit. 

In California, only close relatives, such as spouses, children, or parents, are normally entitled to file a wrongful death suit after a fatal accident. 

Speak With a California Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you were injured in any kind of car accident, including one that involved a self-driving car, our California car accident lawyers are here to make sure you understand your legal options. The California car accident attorneys at Beckerman Anderson Law Firm are able to help. Call (949) 409-4299 and schedule your free consultation today.