Most major automobile manufacturers are currently testing or producing autonomous vehicles, and, in the United States, many self-driving vehicles are already on our roadways. One recent study shows that, as of 2022, self-driving vehicles are being tested in 36 states. While most states have enacted legislation that defines autonomous vehicles and regulates their use, the law has not quite managed to keep pace with the various liability issues that arise from accidents involving self-driving vehicles.
Manufacturers have reported multiple collisions involving autonomous vehicles, some of which resulted in injuries and fatalities. The prevailing trend seems to be for manufacturers to settle any liability issues with the victims or their families privately. The way the courts plan on handling liability issues in autonomous vehicle accidents remains unclear.
If you were injured in an accident involving a self-driving vehicle in Virginia, speak with the experienced Virginia car accident attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to find out the best way to handle your case.
Who Is at Fault in a Crash with an Autonomous Vehicle?
Autonomous vehicles are an excellent example of what happens when technology progresses faster than the law. This discrepancy could lead to unforeseeable consequences for those who are injured in these kinds of accidents. The laws that are implemented by state legislatures over the next several years will have a major effect on victims’ rights.
In most states, the insurance carrier for the driver of the at-fault non-autonomous vehicle is financially responsible for any damages sustained during an accident. So, if a car is self-driving, can it be liable for an accident? If these vehicles contain software that makes second-by-second decisions, is the software the driver? What role does the person who wrote the software program play? Since the car is guided by software, is it fair to assign fault to the human being in the driver’s seat? The law is still learning and evolving when it comes to these and other issues. In many states, the courts and legislatures have not even begun to scratch the surface.
Autonomous Vehicles and Product Liability
In cases where a manufacturer has sold a defective or dangerous product that injured a consumer, the manufacturer is usually strictly liable to the victim. The victim is not required to show that the manufacturer was negligent. They are only required to prove that the product had a defect in its marketing, manufacture, or design.
Even though not demanding proof of the respondent’s intent eases the plaintiff’s burden, proving that a sophisticated piece of technology was faulty is an expensive and challenging task all on its own. The victim will have to present evidence that proves another design would have been safer and just as effective or that a distinct manufacturing error created the problem that resulted in the accident.
Manufacturing and design flaws in self-driving vehicles can lead to fatal and injury-causing accidents. The legislatures, the judiciary, and attorneys need to evaluate whether or not product liability laws, as they currently stand, are able to provide adequate redress to those who suffer serious damages in autonomous vehicle accidents.
As more autonomous vehicles hit the market and become readily available, those considering purchasing one need to pay attention to changes in the law regarding how liability is handled when an accident occurs. Many manufacturers are actively lobbying for liability protections which, if enacted, will reduce a victim’s ability to receive full and fair financial compensation after a crash.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Virginia Personal Injury Attorneys
If you were injured in an accident that involved a self-driving car or any other kind of motor vehicle, our Virginia personal injury lawyers can explain your legal options to you. The Virginia personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp are here to help. Call (833) 997-1774 and schedule your free consultation.
An experienced personal injury attorney with dual licensure in Virginia and North Carolina, Eric Washburn received a B.B.A. in Finance from James Madison University—initially worked in the information technology field before obtaining his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan. Once an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Danville, Va., Eric has been recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star” Super Lawyer in Virginia since 2014.