Lately, it seems our world is moving faster than many of us had expected. Between face scanning cell phones and home automation systems that you can control with your voice, it’s as if the late 2010s technology pulled us into a utopian novel. Now, with the spread of COVID-19 and health concerns at the forefront of our minds, there is a significant need for advanced technology services to go beyond everyday convenience. As many U.S. residents adhere to social distancing and efforts to stay at home when possible, the demand for an uptick in self-driving vehicle development has increased. But as this demand increases, so do questions of liability and safety.

The Investments Increase, But What About Accountability?

Some may not realize it, but self-driving vehicles have been on the road for a few years already, albeit not extensively. In recent months, thanks to the pandemic, investments from motor companies have increased. In fact, Volkswagen alone has allocated a total of $52 billion into the development and maintenance of vehicles operated by artificial intelligence (A.I.). And General Motors, having recently announced a partnership with EVgo, have allocated $20 billion into self-driving vehicle technologies. Of course, these companies will have to get behind Tesla, the self-driving technology leader whose Autopilot model is a semi-autonomous system with traffic-aware cruise control, self-parking, and other A.I driven features.

But, with so many automated features, it leads one to ask: What happens if the self-driving vehicle causes a car accident? After all, it’s much easier to prove a human operator is at fault. Humans can be put under oath. Human fallibility can be seen in plain sight. You can prove a human’s negligence by checking blood-alcohol level or maybe looking back at security cameras. It stands to reason that artificial intelligence may leave less of a paper trail of responsibility.

Responsible Parties and Your Legal Options

To better understand who is at fault for any incident involving self-driving cars, one must examine the details in-depth. Where was the injured party at the time of the incident and were they at all responsible? Was weather an influence? What about manufacturer errors? Even in everyday accidents, these are rarely open-and-shut cases. So, let’s look at a true-life example of an incident involving a self-driving vehicle.

In March 2018, a driver set his vehicle to a self-driving mode. The vehicle struck a pedestrian walking a bike outside of a crosswalk, causing the first recorded fatality by an automated vehicle. While there was a human still in the self-driving car as it struck the pedestrian, can they really be at fault for the accident? After all, they gave up control to the A.I. system and would not have had sufficient time to react as needed.

Ultimately, Uber settled in a case against them for wrongful death damages, despite the fact that the pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk at the time. Though, it’s speculated that Uber’s settlement was less an admission of fault and more an avoidance of lengthy court proceedings and fees. So, at the end of the day, liability questions were still up in the air – proving how complex these issues can be and shedding light on the necessity of future laws and better technologies to protect those vulnerable to self-driving cars.

The world of vehicle-related personal injury claims is not unfamiliar with complex liability matters. Cruise control, automated public transportation, trolly cars – however the accident occurs, there will be a serious need for thorough investigation by an expert before liability may be determined. And then, of course, there is the personal injury court to convince. 

Damages in a Motor Vehicle Accident

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, whether it was a self-driving car accident or not, you have likely incurred various losses. If you reach a successful settlement or verdict, damages for personal injury losses include those related to:

  • Lost wages from missing work uncovered by paid time off
  • Medical bills – including scans, operations, and therapy sessions
  • Physical pain
  • Psychological and emotional suffering

Depending on your situation, the list could go on. A successful personal injury case will ideally award the plaintiff for all losses related to the incident in question.  

Get to Know Aigen Law Firm

At Aigen Law Firm, we represent victims in personal injury and wrongful death matters across a spectrum of accident types. Firm founder, Scott Aigen, Esq., has experience representing both plaintiff and defendant in personal injury cases. We understand how best to investigate complex accident circumstances. Our informed car accident attorneys bring years of practice and seasoned legal knowledge to every case.