Self-Driving Cars: Who’s Liable When a Car Accident Occurs?

Jan 17, 2014 | Auto Accidents

Although many of us were promised flying cars by now, that technology isn’t yet available.  However, automakers are pressing ahead to produce a self-driving car.  While a self-driving car can drive in traffic and park itself while you sit behind the wheel and check your Facebook status or grab a quick nap, who’s responsible when a car accident occurs?

How Can A Car Drive Itself?

According to MIT Technology Review, Audi had several of its cars drive themselves onto a stage at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  The cars contain book-sized circuit boards that allow for them to be self-driven.

Audi claims that the system, called zFAS, is a significant advance in automation technology. It has long- and mid-range radar systems, several video cameras, a laser scanner, and ultrasonic distance sensors on the front and sides of the car that allow for “piloted driving.”  The technology enables the vehicle to drive in traffic and park on its own.  The prototype is still being tweaked, but Audi and other car makers – such as Lexus – say that this technology will likely be the future of driving as we know it.

Determining Liability with New Technology

Technology is great, and who wouldn’t want the capability of just being “chauffeured” around by your own car?  However, when an accident happens, is the car owner liable or is the car’s computer liable?  If it’s the latter, there may be a problem.  You simply can’t take a computer to court.

Only time will tell whether this technology will actually be used commercially and by more than a few who have access to it.  However, the owners of self-driving cars will likely have to have their insurance companies draw up unique insurance policies to cover those drivers who aren’t actually driving.

It will be necessary for drivers and passengers of other vehicles to obtain compensation for their injuries when the self-driven car’s computer hiccups, fails or just doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.  It’s safe to say that anyone with a personal computer (PC) can attest to the fact that computers often fail.

Self-Driven or Human-Driven; Accidents Happen

Regardless of whether a car is self-driven or human-driven, accidents will happen.  When they do, they can cause serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, neck injuries, whiplash, broken bones and more that may require medical treatment and rehabilitation, as well as result in lost income.

Car accidents can be financially and emotionally draining on victims and their families – especially when the injured victim was a primary caregiver.  Car accident lawyers understand how these types of cases work and can investigate the accident, review your medical records and represent your best interests when it comes to insurance payments and settlements.

It’s important to remember that insurance companies are in the business to make money. Regardless of the advertisements, it is unlikely that they’ll simply pay your claim without a fight.  Make sure that you don’t settle without contacting an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney first, as many people who are injured in car accidents do not realize the full extent of their injuries until weeks or months after the accident occurs.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


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