Self-Driving cars are now becoming more and more popular. Other states, like California, are now allowing them to be operated on their roads in controlled settings. For many of us, this will remind us of movies involving cars that drive themselves while the human in the car is able to relax on their drive. It’s almost like a taxi, but it’s the person’s car and a computer program is driving. Technology is always a fascinating thing, but in this context, what happens when self-driving cars cause an accident?
As many people are aware, if you cause an accident and are liable, an insurance claim and possible litigation may be brought against you. This would require the person that was hit and injured to prove that the other driver was negligent, and that this negligence caused the collision and the injuries to the Plaintiff. But what about if the car was self-driving?
This makes these cases potentially much more complicated. First, there is typically a requirement that any self-driving car have a human that is alert and attentive at the wheel. If the collision with a self-driving car is caused by the human’s inattention, then a negligence theory will still work. Second, however, is much more complicated. If the car crash was caused by the computer program, then the negligence standard will not work in the traditional sense. In this case, the likely remedy is a products liability claim. Products liability claims require proving manufacturing defects, design defects, or warning defects. In this sense, the fault in a computer program likely involves the first two (manufacturing and design defects). A manufacturing defect involves a problem that occurs when the product is being manufactured, or created. A design defect is when the design itself is problematic.
In either circumstance, to prove a self-driving car acted in appropriately will likely involve a blend of negligence and product liability laws. While New Hampshire and Massachusetts aren’t currently dealing with an influx of self-driving cars, it is likely going to happen in the coming years.
If you are injured by any driver (even a computer), the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels and McKay can help you. Contact us if you find yourself in a situation where you need to know your legal rights.