Who is Liable in a Crash Involving an Autonomous Vehicle?

Who is Liable in a Crash Involving an Autonomous Vehicle?

In most Irvine car accidents, it is relatively easier to sort out the issue of liability. A driver can be deemed negligent for speeding, running a red light, breaking traffic rules, or otherwise driving in a reckless manner. However, things are a lot more complicated when it comes to self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles have become increasingly common across the country over the past few years. And it is expected that many more of these will replace the conventional passenger cars that still run on the roads today. This is simply because of the sheer convenience of an intelligent vehicle which can drive, navigate, and take you from one place to another all on its own. That being said, autonomous cars also pose a new set of risks which makes them distinct from cars operated by humans. At the same time, the issue of legal liability in accidents involving autonomous vehicles is not fully clear. This can make it confusing for people who sustain an injury in an autonomous vehicle crash and want to file a personal injury claim. In order to make things clearer, here are some general guidelines on how best to proceed if you have been involved in an Irvine accident involving self-driving cars.

What is an Autonomous Vehicle?

Before looking at the relevant laws in this area, it is important to understand how an autonomous vehicle is legally defined. California Vehicle Code 38750 defines such a vehicle as one that is equipped with technology ‘that has the capability to drive a vehicle without active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.’ At the same time, the law notes that a vehicle that may have specific automated systems, such as adaptive cruise control or collision avoidance systems, does not qualify if these systems can’t also drive the vehicle without any human assistance.

California Requirements for Autonomous Vehicle Testing

California DMV has defined a broad set of regulations that govern the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Most of these regulations are included in Title 13, Division 1, Chapter 1, Article 3.7 of the California Code of Regulations. As per these regulations:
  • Autonomous vehicles can’t operate on public roads unless there is an operator on the driver’s seat or a remote operator who constantly monitors the car’s operation
  • In the event of driverless testing with remote operator monitoring, the full details of the routes, vehicles, and other relevant information must be shared with the authorities beforehand
  • Only the manufacturer of the vehicle can conduct testing
  • The vehicle must allow a driver or a remote operator to take over at any time
  • The driver or the owner of the vehicle must have proof of financial responsibility
  • In the event of an accident, the manufacturer must notify state authorities within 10 days

Potentially Liable Parties

In an accident caused by an autonomous vehicle, a number of parties can be held liable. Here is a look at parties who can be potentially liable: The Manufacturer In most autonomous vehicle accidents which occur during testing, the manufacturer is likely to be held liable. This is because the manufacturer is likely overseeing the whole testing phase. Even when the negligence of the driver or remote operator resulted in the crash, the manufacturer can still be added as the at-fault party. Vehicle Owner It is possible for a vehicle owner to modify a vehicle and turn it from a non-autonomous vehicle into an autonomous vehicle. When this happens, the manufacturer is protected against liability, as the autonomous technology was not installed by the manufacturer. The owner, when apart from the manufacturer, will then be held liable even if the owner was not operating at the time the crash occurred. Driver The driver of an autonomous vehicle is legally defined as someone who is in the driver’s seat, who caused the autonomous technology to engage, or who was remotely operating the vehicle. When an autonomous car causes a crash, one or more of these entities can be held liable. In fact, most injury claims in such instances will be directed against such persons. This is because the law requires the driver or operator to intervene in case an unusual event occurs to prevent a collision.

Hiring a Reliable Car Accident Attorney in Irvine, CA

As noted above, accidents involving self-driving cars can be quite complicated in terms of the issue of liability. This is why you will need expert legal help if you want to file a damages claim for such a crash. Here at the Crockett Law Group, we work with you to sort the issue of liability and then file a claim without wasting any time. Get in touch with us to discuss your car accident injury claim with our lawyers.