Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars on the Rise

Cars are so technologically advanced that some can even drive themselves. These technological advances are intended to keep our roads safer by taking human error and negligence out of the equation. However, as one recent Los Angeles accident shows, these technologically advanced cars aren’t always foolproof. Last week, a Culver City fire truck was struck by a Tesla operating on autopilot. While no injuries were reported, the accident exposes a potential threat posed by these vehicles. What happens when a car driving on autopilot is not only involved in an accident, but is also responsible for causing the crash? Who is responsible for injuries and/or deaths that result?

Manufacturer Responsibility

Tesla is the leading producer of advanced motor vehicles. The cars that they are putting out on the road are capable of incredible things. In California, Tesla has a duty to make sure that the vehicles they design, manufacture, and sell are safe. This means ensuring that the cars, when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable way, will not put users in harm’s way. When a company like Tesla puts an inherently dangerous product out on the market, and that product is a substantial factor in someone’s injury, the company can be held financially responsible.

In order to fulfill their duty, Tesla must make sure that its designs are free from error, the vehicles are manufactured without error, and that any potential dangers are fully disclosed. The best way to make sure that this legal obligation is met is by conducting rigorous testing. Some consumer advocates believe that Tesla is failing to properly test its incredibly advanced vehicles before they are sold for public use. If Tesla vehicles operating on autopilot continue to be involved in fatal and injury-causing accidents, they will likely face serious legal challenges.

Driver Responsibility

If you shell out the money to purchase a self-driving car you probably expect to sit back, relax, and let the car get you to your intended destination. Since the reliability of self-driving technology is murky, at best, drivers have a responsibility to make sure that the car operates safely. The duty to prevent harm is not eliminated just because you have a self-driving car. This means that a driver of a self-driving car must still keep their eyes on the road, keep their hands on the wheel, and avoid distractions. A driver who fails to uphold his/her legal duty to drive safely can and will be held financially responsible for harms that occur.

Comparative Fault

Who should you seek damages from if you are injured by a self-driving car? How can you know who is responsible for your injuries? In California, accident victims can try to recover compensation from anyone who contributed to the cause of his/her injury-causing accident. Under the law of comparative fault, each negligent/liable party will be held financially responsible to the degree they contributed to the accident.

For example, let’s say that Tesla didn’t disclose that their autopilot technology was more likely to malfunction when a vehicle exceeds 35 MPH. One of their vehicles operating on autopilot was involved in a serious accident. The driver of that car did not have his hands on the wheel and could not manually prevent the crash. The victim, who suffered $100,000 in damages, decides to name both Tesla and the car’s driver as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit. An investigation determines that Tesla is 80 percent responsible for the crash, and the Tesla driver is 20 percent responsible for the crash. The accident victim is entitled to recover 80 percent of his damages from Tesla and 20 percent of his damages from the driver.

What happens if the injured accident victim was also responsible for causing the accident? In some states, the victim would be completely barred from recovering compensation. In California, however, accident victims can still recover compensation if they are partially to blame for an accident. Let’s say that the victim was texting at the time of the crash and is determined to be 10 percent at fault for the crash. Instead of being able to recover 100 percent of his damages, the victim would only be able to recover $90,000. The remaining 90 percent of fault would be allocated to Tesla and the other driver.

Los Angeles Car Accident Attorneys

Have you been involved in a Los Angeles car accident and more than one person was responsible for the crash? If so, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Each person who is at fault can (and should) be held financially responsible for your injuries. At the Los Angeles Accident Law Center, our car accident attorneys will determine who is potentially responsible for your accident and aggressively pursue compensation from them on your behalf. We know that an unexpected injury can be devastating, and we will fight to make sure that you are fairly compensated for the harms you have suffered. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

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