On the surface, it probably seems like the widespread use of self-driving cars would simplify life in a lot of ways. When those same autonomous vehicles crash, however, assigning blame is inherently complex.
Because autopilot technology is so new, there are few precedents regarding liability for associated wrecks. Just last month, however, prosecutors in Los Angeles County made headlines for filing felony charges against a man who was behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S when it collided with a Honda Civic, killing the two occupants inside.
Kevin George Aziz Riad is the first motorist in the country to face felony charges for a fatal traffic crash involving an automated driver-assist system that’s widely available. To say the situation is a wake-up call for all those who rely on self-driving features is an understatement.
Even if Riad is not convicted, the simple fact that he has been formally charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter highlights how motorists are assumed to have at least some culpability in self-driving wrecks.
Criminal consequences aside, it’s reasonable to wonder about the kind of recourse self-driving accident victims are going to have as tort law evolves alongside the rapidly advancing technology. At the end of the day, personal injury actions are handled on a case-by-case basis, and that’s not going to change. While precedents can certainly influence proceedings, the outcome of any given claim is going to depend on the circumstances surrounding the crash.
With that in mind, there are a number of parties that could be deemed liable for a death resulting from a collision involving an automated vehicle. The most likely parties include:
- The motorist of the automated vehicle,
- The vehicle’s manufacturer,
- The software engineers that created the automated technology,
- The hardware manufacturers that enabled the automated technology, and
- The marketing agency that advertised the technology.
Regarding the accident involving Riad, the families of the deceased victims have filed civil lawsuits against both Riad and Tesla. Their legal team is monitoring Riad’s criminal case closely, as it could yield evidence that bolsters their own actions.
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Were you struck by a motorist who was relying on self-driving technology at the time of the crash? To determine how best to proceed, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks.
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