Self-driving cars bring many liability issues

Self-driving cars, once merely a futuristic fantasy, may soon appear on roadways nationwide. Several auto manufacturers are designing autonomous vehicles, test-driving them and even sending them out into the world. Self-driving cars are still rare on public roads, but may soon become widespread.

The inception of self-driving cars has raised several important issues. Two weeks ago, a woman was struck and killed by a Volvo that was in autonomous mode. Her death raised issues of safety, insurance and responsibility.

Who is responsible?

One of the biggest issues surrounding self-driving cars is liability. In car crashes involving human-driven cars, there are several parties that a victim may sue. The driver, if they were driving negligently; the auto manufacturer, if their vehicle’s design contributed to the accident; even the state or local highway system, if they failed to properly care for the roadways. But an accident, who may be held liable? The driver? The technology supplier? The auto manufacturer? The answer has yet to be decided.

An uncertain legal future

The Police Chief who handled the fatal accident stated that the collision would have been difficult for any car, human-driven or self-driving, to avoid. Still, that does not mean that victims of self-driving car accidents do not have legal options. The family of the pedestrian who was killed by a self-driving vehicle has yet to take any legal action. It remains to be seen whether they will decide to file a wrongful death suit against the driver, the manufacturer, the technology supplier or Uber, the ride-sharing service that owned the vehicle. Without a doubt, in the near future there will be several instances of litigation regarding self-driving cars. The court rulings in these cases will set the precedent for liability in accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

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Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne is an accomplished lawyer who practices in state and federal courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. He brings more than 30 years of experience and a long record of success to each case. His law practice is distinguished by careful preparation and thorough analysis of each case...

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