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Who Is Responsible for Self-Driving Car Accidents?

Colburn Law

As autonomous vehicles become more common on our roadways, we are ushered into a new era of transport. These self-driving cars are designed to reduce human error, promising a future of safer roads and more efficient commutes. 

However, the increasing number of autonomous cars also has seen an increased chance of accidents. Because these vehicles technically do not have a driver, many victims wonder who they could hold responsible for a self-driving car accident.

Potential Liable Parties in a Self-Driving Car Accident

The Rise of Self-Driving Car Technology

Initially conceived as an idea of science fiction, the progression of self-driving car technology has been rapid and significant.  Advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning have made it possible for vehicles to navigate roads without human intervention, interpret traffic signals, and even make real-time decisions based on unexpected scenarios. 

Despite these technological advancements, however, there is still a long way to go until self-driving cars are fully autonomous and safe to use. They still struggle in certain scenarios, such as navigating through extreme weather conditions or interpreting the behaviors of pedestrians and cyclists.

Potential Liable Parties in a Self-Driving Car Accident

After a self-driving car accident, identifying the responsible party can be complicated. Washington is a fault state, which means that the driver whose actions caused the collision is liable. In cases involving autonomous vehicles, liability will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident. 

The Operator or Driver

Despite the term “self-driving,” most autonomous vehicles in operation today still require some degree of human oversight. The operator or driver may be held liable if inattention or delayed response to taking control of the control contributes to the accident. The exact degree of liability may vary depending on the level of autonomy of the vehicle and the events leading up to the accident.

The Vehicle’s Manufacturer

If a defect in the self-driving technology or another part of the vehicle causes the accident, the vehicle’s manufacturer may be held responsible. This could be due to a fault in the manufacturing process, inadequate testing of the autonomous system, or failure to provide necessary updates or warnings about the vehicle’s capabilities and limitations.

A Government Agency 

In certain cases, a government agency could bear some liability for a self-driving car accident. This could occur if the agency responsible for maintaining roads, traffic signals, or other infrastructure failed to do so adequately, leading to conditions that the self-driving car’s systems could not safely negotiate. Failure to implement or enforce safety regulations may also contribute to governmental liability.

What to Do If You Are Hit by an Autonomous Vehicle

The actions that you take immediately after a car accident can significantly impact your ability to recover compensation. If you were hit by a self-driving car, it’s important to follow these steps:

  • Call 911 immediately to report the accident.
  • Obtain the driver’s information if there is one present in the autonomous vehicle.
  • Seek medical attention, even if you feel you are not seriously injured.
  • Document the scene by taking photos and videos of the accident, including damage to the vehicles and your injuries.
  • Speak to any witnesses and get their contact information. 

Then, consult with a Washington car accident attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can guide you through your claim and make sense of complex, evolving autonomous vehicle laws, advocating for your right to a fair settlement. After seeking medical care, schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your next steps.