With the everyday advancement of technology, autonomous or self-driving vehicles are becoming very common on our roads. However, as technology advances, negligence laws must also change to keep pace because auto accidents are likely inevitable.
When you suffer injuries in an accident with an autonomous car, whom do you sue for compensation/damages?
Generally, this compensation claim can be a tricky legal issue than typical and everyday non-autonomous car accident claims. However, you don't have to deal with this confusing legal issue alone while undergoing treatment for your injuries.
Having an experienced and dedicated autonomous car accident attorney in your corner can increase your chances of securing maximum compensation for your losses resulting from the accident. Below, you will learn more about what to do when finding liability in a self-driving car accident.
What is a Self-Driving Car?
Self-driving cars are no longer science-fiction stories as they are here with us on our roads. According to Vehicle Code 38750 VC, a self-driving car is a vehicle that has the technology and advanced computer software systems that allow it to run or operate without active physical control by a human operator.
For the sake of this statute, a vehicle equipped with specific automated systems like collision avoidance systems or adaptive cruise control will not qualify as a self-driving car because these systems cannot run the car without human control.
Typically, autonomous cars rely on GPS and sensors on various parts of the vehicle to detect other motorists, pedestrians, and road signs on the road. Although they are "self-driving cars," there must be a human on the driver's seat to exercise a certain level of control over the car to avoid possible foreseeable accidents.
Unfortunately, some accidents are inevitable, even if the purpose of this remarkable innovation is to reduce auto accidents on our roads by eliminating human errors. When you suffer injuries in an accident involving a self-driving car, it might be challenging to determine the liable or at-fault party because these cases involve complex legal issues.
Because of that, you should talk to an injury attorney with experience in these kinds of auto accidents for legal representation henceforth. An experienced autonomous car accident attorney can help determine liability in the accident to begin your compensation claim against the at-fault party without delay.
Ensure you keep all your hospital bills and receipts to help your attorney calculate the ideal amount you deserve as compensation for your losses.
Determining Liability in a Self-Driving Car Accident
Generally, self-driving car accidents result in confusing and tricky compensation claims that require the legal help of a skilled and credible attorney. Knowing what to do immediately after an accident with a self-driving car can increase your odds of achieving maximum compensation from the at-fault party.
Before we go into detail on how to determine liability in a self-driving car accident, here are steps to take after this kind of auto accident to protect your interest and legal rights:
- Call the police or 911
- capture pictures and record videos of the accident scene using your smartphone camera
- If any, talk to a few eyewitnesses because you might need their testimony in court to prove liability in the self-driving car accident incident.
- Call your insurance provider if you are a driver of a non-autonomous car or a motorcyclist.
- Seek medical assistance, even if you don't have visible physical injuries
- Speak with a reputable and credible self-driving car accident attorney
In an auto accident with a self-driving car, several parties could be liable for your losses and injuries resulting from the accident. Before pointing out a liable or at-fault party to a self-driving car accident incident, your attorney must keenly investigate the case. That is why it is essential to talk to an attorney as soon as possible while the eyewitnesses' memories are still "fresh."
During the investigation, your injury attorney may require accident reconstruction experts to provide an honest opinion on what could've possibly led to the accident. Typically, liability in a self-driving or autonomous car depends on several factors, including whether or not multiple vehicles were violating traffic statutes before the accident incident.
Explained below are some of the potential liability areas in a self-driving car accident case:
The Operator of the Autonomous/Self-Driving Car
As mentioned above, most autonomous cars on the highway still have a human on the wheel. The person on the wheel should be ready to take instant control over the vehicle if it gives a system failure warning to avoid a foreseeable accident. Under the law, the "operator" refers to the person in the driver's seat when the vehicle is moving.
According to VC 38750, an autonomous car must come with a safety alert system that can alert the operator when there is a technical or software failure in the automatic system for an immediate cause of action, for example:
- Taking control of the steering wheel
If the operator does not take complete control of the vehicle after an alert of any failure in the automatic technology, they could be liable for causing the accident. In that case, the operator will be liable for all your losses and damages resulting from the self-driving car accident.
Self-Driving Vehicle Manufacturer
The company responsible for designing and manufacturing the autonomous car can also be liable in an accident. That would be possible if the accident or crash were due to failure or defect of the autonomous technology. For instance, a system failure can make it challenging for the operator to exercise control of the vehicle in case of any emergency.
If a manufacturing or design defect was the cause of the autonomous car accident, the manufacturer of the vehicle should be liable for your losses under product liability laws. Under this statute, you don't have to prove to the judge that the company was negligent.
Instead, the main focus, in this case, is whether or not the product was inherently dangerous before landing on the owner's hands. If it was not faulty, the liability blame could shift to the vehicle owner because the cause of the accident could be a mechanical failure.
In some cases, a third party like the government could also be liable for your losses resulting from the self-driving car accident for failing to repair the roads. If a road defect or a dangerous pothole was the cause of the self-driving car accident, your attorney could help you file a compensation claim against the city/government.
Generally, as you can see above, an auto accident with a self-driving car is complicated and different from typical car accident cases. To increase the chances of attaining maximum compensation for your injuries and other losses resulting from the accident, you should take your time to find an experienced and skilled injury attorney.
How to Seek Compensation After Determining Liability in the Self-Driving Car Accident Case
Once you identify the at-fault party in the self-driving car accident, you can seek compensation for your injuries and losses resulting from the accident through any of the following two ways:
Request a Settlement
One of the ways to resolve a compensation claim against the at-fault party is by requesting a settlement. Your injury attorney will help you prepare a settlement demand letter which you will send to the at-fault party demanding full compensation for your injuries resulting from the self-driving car accident.
In this demand letter, your attorney will list all your medical expenses since the date of the accident occurrence and possible costs you may incur for the ongoing treatment and vehicle repair. To prove to the at-fault party that the claim is legit, your attorney will attach all your medical and therapy receipts in the demand letter.
After sending the demand letter, the at-fault party should give you a response within two (2) weeks to two (2) months, roughly. If everything goes well and the at-fault party acts in good faith, you will receive your requested amount of money to keep the case out of court. However, most defendants will not bow down to giving you their money without a blow.
Therefore, you should expect a settlement offer that is less than the requested amount. Other times, even if your demand letter had enough pieces of evidence to prove you deserve the amount, the defendant may choose to delay your claim if they want to take the case to court.
If that is the case, you should stick to your decision because you deserve adequate compensation for all the current and future losses you might incur due to the injuries resulting from the self-driving car accident. When that happens, you shouldn't worry because there is another alternative: you can hold them accountable for all your losses resulting from the self-driving car accident.
File a Lawsuit
Although most defendants will be willing to settle a personal injury claim out of the court, some defendants are reluctant to offer adequate compensation. In that case, filing a personal lawsuit against the defendant will be the only option to hold the defendant liable for your injuries resulting from the accident.
If you want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party, you should remember time is of the essence. Typically, your case might not be viable after the expiry of the statute of limitations which is two (2) years from the actual date of the accident occurrence.
When you file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, a team of jurors or a judge will decide whether or not you deserve damages for your losses by listening and reviewing pieces of evidence from your attorney and defendant's attorney.
During this lawsuit, your attorney can use a variety of evidence to prove liability for an award of full compensation for your losses and injuries. Some of these pieces of evidence include (but are not limited to):
- Pictures of the accident scene
- Surveillance videos
- An eyewitness testimony
Typically, the specific evidence your attorney will use in court to prove you deserve damages for your losses will depend on where the liability of the self-driving car accident falls. Suppose your attorney suspects that the operator or owner of the self-driving car was liable for the accident. In that case, they must prove the following elements of negligence to the judge for an award of compensatory damages:
- Duty of care
- Breach of the duty of care
An experienced and skilled injury attorney will know how to demonstrate each of these elements to convince the judge or jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that you deserve adequate compensation from the at-fault party.
Damages You Might Recover in a Self-Driving Car Accident Case
If your injury claim is successful, you will receive some damages as reimbursement for your injuries and losses resulting from the self-driving car accident. The exact amount of damages you will receive will depend on the severity of your injuries and other losses associated with the accident. Typically, there are two categories of compensatory damages in a self-driving car accident, including:
Also known as pecuniary damages, economic damages are compensable in a personal injury lawsuit to cover the plaintiff's out-of-pocket losses since the occurrence of the autonomous car accident. Typically, economic damages are the financial losses you already have or will probably incur due to the losses resulting from the accident. Some of the possible financial losses include:
- Past and potential future medical costs, including therapy costs
- Loss of past and future earnings or wages
- Loss of a job
- Loss of earning capacity or business opportunities
- The cost of your vehicle repair
- The cost of buying equipment to make your life easier and comfortable, for example, a wheelchair or a prosthetic arm
When you win an injury lawsuit after suffering injuries in a self-driving car accident, you should also expect non-economic damages for subjective and non-monetary losses, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish or stress
- Lack of enjoyment in life
- Reputational damage
Although there are no medical receipts to prove that you deserve non-economic damages, an experienced attorney will know how to convince the court that you deserve compensation for the above type of losses.
Depending on the specific facts of your unique case, the judge may also award you punitive damages to punish the defendant or the at-fault party for their extreme recklessness, gross negligence, or intentional acts. The purpose of punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit is to deter or reform the defendant (at-fault party) and other people with similar behaviors or conduct.
What to Expect if You're Partially Liable for the Occurrence of the Self-Driving Car Accident
Fortunately, all hopes of receiving compensation for your losses resulting from the self-driving car accident are not lost, even if you were partially at fault or liable for the accident.
Under comparative negligence law, also known as comparative fault law, you could still be eligible for partial compensation for your losses arising from the self-driving car accident. Generally, the amount of compensation you will receive in this situation will depend on your level or percentage of negligence or liability towards the occurrence of the accident.
The judge presiding over this case will decide your percentage of negligence or responsibility in the accident incident by considering facts and pieces of evidence from your attorney and the other party. Under this legal doctrine, if you are only 25% liable or at fault for the self-driving car accident, you should expect 75% compensation from the other party.
What to Do When Your Family Member Dies in a Self-Driving Car Accident
When someone you love dies in a self-driving car accident, they will not be able to hold the liable party liable for their actions. However, as the victim's family member, you can hold the liable party responsible for their actions by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. For the sake of wrongful death laws, not everyone counts as a "family member." Wrongful death lawsuit is limited to:
- Any other individual who has the authority to inherit the victim's property or assets
If everything goes well on the wrongful death lawsuit, you might recover damages for all the losses associated with your loved one's death, including:
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
- Loss of support
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of affection
- Loss of financial support
In conclusion, any motor vehicle on the road can injure a cyclist, pedestrian or cause a severe auto accident. Retaining the services of an attorney is the first crucial step to take to protect your rights and increase your chances of achieving maximum compensation.
Find a Self-Driving Car Accident Attorney Near Me
Injury attorneys at Orange County Personal Injury Attorney are here to offer you the exceptional legal representation you need to fight for adequate compensation for your losses resulting from a self-driving car accident. We will keenly investigate your case to build strong evidence to help you fight for maximum compensation through every stage of the claim process.
Call us at 714-876-1959 to discuss your injury case with our understanding injury attorneys as soon as you can.