Top car manufacturers are investing heavily in the technology that powers driverless cars. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are being hailed as the answer to rising auto accident deaths. Poor human decision-making is the #1 cause of 94% of fatal car accidents annually; the logic follows that restricting human involvement behind the wheel will cause the number of fatalities to dwindle.

Today, fully-autonomous vehicles have a long way to go before becoming commercially-available to the public; yet, the federal government is already exploring legislation to determine liability in accidents involving self-driving cars. As more car manufacturers test these vehicles on public roads, more crashes involving them are bound to occur.

Determining Liability in a Portland Driverless Car Accident

Holding someone responsible for a driverless car accident is more complicated than investigating an accident and determining which driver was at fault. Imagine that you are “driving” an autonomous vehicle when a pedestrian suddenly pops into a crosswalk. The car cannot slow down to stop in time. Should the car swerve to avoid hitting the pedestrian but hit a tree and likely kill its occupants, or should it strike the pedestrian but keep its occupants safe? Regardless of the outcome, it’s unclear at this time who would be liable for damages. In an accident such as this hypothetical one, three parties may be liable to some degree.

  1. The driver
  2. The software developer
  3. The manufacturer

Some have also floated the idea of holding the car liable as a legal person. By granting autonomous vehicles legal personhood, they can be treated as insurable entities like corporations, allowing the owner of the self-driving vehicle and the company that produced it to avoid liability for accidents.

Liability May Shift to Manufacturers

By eliminating the possibility for human errors to cause car accidents, Google believes car accidents in the future will be extremely rare events. It may happen that liability will shift from the at-fault driver to the automotive industry and the network of manufacturers and software developers who design and update the systems that allow autonomous cars to function. Likewise, manufacturers may be stocking up on product liability insurance while drivers may not need to buy insurance at all.

For an injured plaintiff to win compensation, he would have to show that a human driver would have done a better job or that another automated driving system would have done a better job at avoiding the accident.

Google Assumes Liability

The way Google sees it, the odds of its self-driving cars causing accidents is minute. Google aims to make cars fully autonomous in the future, meaning that these cars will likely not even have pedals or steering wheels! The company believes that taking away a human’s ability to intervene will eliminate the odds of human error contributing to an accident. Therefore, Google has assumed responsibility in the first Google AV accident on record in which its vehicle was at fault.

Who Has the Duty of Care?

The passage of the Highly Automated Vehicle Testing and Deployment Act in 2017 allowed automakers to test 100,000 autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles on public roadways. Not only did the bill unleash a stream of AV’s to travel alongside regular cars, it exempts manufacturers from traditional safety standards while deploying the vehicles for testing. These driverless cars present a threat to everyone else on the road.

In the United States, the current law requires drivers to take the same amount of care when driving regardless of the vehicle’s capacity to operate itself. The person in charge of monitoring the AV’s movement and its surroundings must demonstrate reasonable levels of competence or face liability. If a self-driving car accident occurs because the driver was negligent, it is the driver who is liable for the damages since he did not exercise the duty of care.

Driverless car accidents will become increasingly common as the technology continues to advance. If you are injured in an autonomous vehicle accident, contact a Portland driverless car accident attorney to evaluate your case.

Working with a lawyer can help you pursue the financial compensation you need for a variety of expenses accrued because of the accident. If you are suffering from severe injuries that keep you away from work and your loved ones, you may be able to recover for:

  • Lost wages and earning capacity
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Home healthcare
  • And more

Richard Rizk and his team of personal injury lawyers who handle driverless car accidents in Portland are dedicated to aiding your recovery. Allow us to take the brunt of the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on healing. Call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com for a free consultation. You are not obligated to use our firm, and you won’t pay us until we recover on your behalf.