In any car accident, the issue of negligence and liability always comes into consideration. If you have been in an auto accident with an automated vehicle, you may be asking who is responsible? Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. As technology continues to advance, it changes how we live: from how we communicate, to how we interact as a society, and even how we drive. As these changes occur, Florida’s liability laws must adapt to fit the changing environment. As more automated vehicles take to the roads, there must be a framework that supports the ability to identify accountability when things go wrong and address potential conflicts of interest between the driver, car manufacturer, and system developers. We have found that the law is still developing in this area and we are on the front lines of the battle.
If you have been injured as a result of a collision with an automated vehicle, you should contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who is able to help navigate this new and developing area of law. After a traditional auto accident, liability is always assigned to one or more of the drivers. However, after an auto accident with an automated vehicle, there are four possible options to pursue.
1. Operator of the vehicle: In Florida, an operator is a person who engages the autonomous technology, regardless of whether they are physically in the vehicle. The viability of a claim against the operator will be determined by the level of autonomy. For instance, if autonomous technology allows the passenger to give up full control of the vehicle, then the passenger will likely not be at fault for a crash caused by the technology. An example: Tesla’s vehicles have the capability to “self-park” without anyone in the vehicle. If an accident occurs, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to hold the” driver” responsible for the actions of the vehicle.
2. Car manufacturer: If the manufacturer was involved in installing the autonomous technology into the car, they could be held responsible. However, Florida law does provide some protection to car manufacturers by limiting product liability.
3. Company that created the finished autonomous car: Volvo is an example of a manufacturer who has pledged to take full responsibility for collisions caused by its self-driving technology.
4. Company that created the autonomous car technology: The company that developed the software for the autonomous car and the company that manufactures the sensor systems that detect the car’s surroundings could be found to be liable for a collision.
According to a National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, in over 90% of the car accidents in the United States, which is approximately over 2 million collisions, the driver acted negligently and was the critical reason for the accident. However, in an accident with an autonomous car, negligence is most likely to be placed on the manufacturer. If there is a person in the vehicle but they do not have control of it, it would be difficult to show that they failed to act with reasonable care. It is like trying to blame a passenger for an accident caused by the person driving.
Here are statistics worth considering:
- In the US, there are more than 1,400 self-driving cars being tested.
- The first, and very primitive, semi-automated car was launched in 1977.
- Google’s first autonomous vehicle accident occurred in February 2016. There were no injuries.
- Tesla’s first autonomous vehicle accident occurred on May 7, 2016, in Florida. It was the first fatality caused by an autonomous vehicle.
- Uber was involved in 37 crashes prior to 2018.
- Uber’s first fatal autonomous vehicle accident occurred on November 20, 2018, in Arizona. This was caused by human error and resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
If you are involved in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, understanding your legal rights can be complicated. The laws are still being flushed out and you need to have someone knowledgeable fighting to ensure you get the compensation for your pain and injuries. Here are the first things you should do after a car accident with an autonomous vehicle:
- Contact the police or local authorities and wait for their arrival. You should never leave the scene of an accident.
- Take pictures. It is always a good idea to collect as much evidence as you can after a car accident. Photographs are relied on heavily by insurance adjusters, judges, and juries to determine liability. Be sure to take clear pictures of the accident scene, including the vehicles involved, the surrounding area, crosswalks, and traffic signals and signs. Take pictures from several locations so that you capture different angles of the collision.
- Get contact information from any witnesses to the accident. When possible, record the witnesses’ accounts of what they saw and heard. Be sure to include where they were when the accident occurred, and what they were doing just prior to the accident. You want to get this information while it is still fresh in their minds.
- Get medical help for your injuries as soon as possible. Many victims involved in an accident may initially feel fine, experience little to no pain, and have no visible injuries. However, once the adrenaline from the accident wears off, the pain can come on quickly. It is always wise to be examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Nothing is more important than your health.
- In these cases, you should hire a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who will protect your rights and work to get the compensation you deserve.
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Having a knowledgeable, trusted personal injury attorney working for you can make the difference in ensuring you get full compensation for your injuries and damages. Your attorney will know where to find the evidence you need to support your claim.
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