Motor vehicle accidents are a fairly common occurrence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were approximately 6,296,000 million car accidents in 2015. They resulted in 32,539 fatalities, and 1,715,000 injuries. In 2016, there were 34,439 vehicle-related fatalities. Approximately 94 percent of all accidents are attributable to human error.

The advent of self-driving cars is supposed to curb the yearly increase in vehicular accidents. The sensors in autonomous vehicles supposedly have a quicker reaction time than humans, are not subject to the flaws of human nature, and can anticipate situations and make the appropriate calculations needed to avoid danger. In addition to safety, self-driving cars are convenient, might help reduce traffic, and can create new possibilities for people with disabilities.

Are there situations where humans are more likely to avoid an accident?

Despite all of the advances in technology, self-driving cars are still not flawless. A recent fatality in Tempe, Arizona was caused by an Uber vehicle that had a human behind the wheel, but was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident. A 49-year-old woman was struck and killed. The car was driving at a speed of 40 miles per hour, and did not slow down as the pedestrian crossed the roadway. Although the incident is still under investigation, it is possible that if the car had not been in autonomous mode, the driver might have been able to avoid the pedestrian.

Who is liable for an accident caused by a self-driving car?

If someone is injured in an accident that was caused by or involved an autonomous vehicle, several parties may be liable:

  1. If the other parties can prove that the victim acted in a way that made the incident unavoidable, then it is likely that nobody will be held liable for the accident.
  2. If it can be proven that another vehicle caused the crash to occur, then the driver of the other vehicle may be held liable.
  3. In cases such as the Uber accident in Tempe, Arizona, it is possible that although the auto feature of the automobile was on, the driver should have taken control of the vehicle to avoid the accident. In this case, the liability could fall on the driver, or Uber.
  4. In instances where there is a glitch in the car’s system, there is a possibility that the company that manufactured the vehicle could be held liable.
  5. Each state can have its own set of laws that pertain to autonomous cars. Attributing liability for an accident caused by an autonomous vehicle can be difficult, complex, and vary wildly depending on the laws of the region where the accident occurred.

Although Oregon has not passed any laws regarding automated vehicles, state legislators proposed legislation in 2017 that would enact specific safety requirements for self-driving cars to be able to operate within the state. In the interim, they have invited companies to test their autonomous vehicles in the state with little protection to the citizens of Oregon. It would seem that the state has exposed itself to liability should an accident occur; if you have been injured in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, it’s important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible

Seek Professional Help

Despite all of the advancement of the autonomous vehicle industry, it is still in its preliminary stages. Although there have been several accidents with self-driving cars, every case is different, and many questions may remain unanswered for the time being. In the meantime, this area of the law is new and complex; if someone is involved in an accident with a self-driving vehicle, it is important to seek the help of a professional who can help navigate the complexities. Contact Richard Rizk at (503) 245-5677, or online, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced auto accident attorneys.