Who’s at Fault in Autonomous Vehicle Accidents?

Who’s at Fault in Autonomous Vehicle Accidents?

Oct 14, 2019 | Automobile Accident

When we hear or read about an accident, one of our first thoughts is often, “Which driver messed up?” But with autonomous vehicle accidents, there often is no active driver.

In the last few years, companies have started placing autonomous vehicles on the road. That means accidents are inevitable. 

In 2019, Arizona prosecutors said they lacked evidence to charge Uber after a self-driving car struck and killed and a pedestrian. Uber disabled the car’s automatic emergency brake before the crash. 

Keep reading to find out more about why authorities often have a hard time assigning blame in autonomous vehicle accidents. 

Safety Drivers and New Technology

First of all, the term “self-driving car’ can be a bit deceiving. While many people hear that and picture a car with no one inside it, that’s almost always not the case.

These autonomous vehicles usually have a backup driver inside the vehicle. They’re not just hanging out in the backseat, either. They’re in the driver’s seat.

That means they should be ready to respond if they need to react suddenly. But that doesn’t always happen.

Take the above Uber accident in Arizona. Authorities said the driver grabbed the wheel and tried to swerve at the last second. But the driver was also reportedly streaming a TV show on her phone a few minutes before the crash.

Arizona did not enact a law against using a handheld cellphone while driving until a year after the crash. Most of us know that distracted driving is dangerous, but we usually hear about the dangers in relation to a traditional car.

With autonomous cars, it’s a whole new ballgame. Even test drivers may relax their guard a bit when they’re behind the wheel of a self-driving car. They may assume that the car’s technology will bail them out if something goes wrong.

Civil Liability vs. Criminal Liability

State legislatures are also trying to figure out how to respond to the new crop of autonomous cars. As of early 2019, Arizona was one of a handful of states that allows for fully autonomous car testing. 

Many other states have decided that this technology is only OK if there’s a backup driver in the vehicle. Texas is one of those states. 

What should you do if you’re injured by a self-driving car in the Houston area? If the police won’t help you, it’s possible a Houston car accident attorney can.

That’s because of the differences between civil liability and criminal liability. A jury in a criminal case must feel confident “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A civil case turns on the “preponderance of evidence.”

A civil jury can look at the actions of both the automobile company and the backup driver in determining blame. A civil jury can’t send anyone to jail. It can determine that a company is financially responsible for someone’s injuries.

Responding to Autonomous Vehicle Accidents 

State legislatures may well need to pass new laws regarding how police should deal with autonomous vehicle accidents. What should you do in the meantime?

Well, you can talk to your local politicians about your concerns. And if you’re involved in an accident with one of these vehicles, ask yourself some questions. Questions like “Should I search for a personal injury lawyer near me?” must be at the top of the list.

Personal injury law firms like ours can help answer your questions. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.