In recent years, autonomous or self-driving vehicles have generated significant interest and discussion. Vehicle manufacturers promote these cars as having the potential to reduce traffic fatalities. However, research indicates that these vehicles are more likely to be involved in serious car accidents than conventional vehicles. Despite safety officials’ acknowledgment that self-driving vehicles create many technical and legal issues, widespread adoption of self-driving cars might be inevitable. That’s why California accident victims must understand their rights and remedies if they suffer injuries in a collision with a self-driving car. 

Levels of Self-Driving Vehicle Automation

Currently, the majority of self-driving vehicles on the road are not fully autonomous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies automation into six levels: 

  • Level 0 Momentary Driver Assistance—the driver is responsible for driving the vehicle, but the car may have automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warnings;
  • Level 1 Driver Assistance—the driver is responsible for driving, but the car may have adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance; 
  • Level 2 Additional Assistance—the driver is fully engaged, but the vehicle may assist with acceleration, braking, and steering;
  • Level 3 Conditional Automation—the vehicle performs active driving tasks, but the driver remains fully attentive to take over;
  • Level 4 High Automation—the vehicle is entirely responsible for driving tasks within certain areas; and
  • Level 5 Full Automation—the vehicle is fully responsible, and the occupants act as passengers.

Level 3 to 5 vehicles are not currently available for consumer purchase in the United States. 

Self-driving vehicles might provide transformative safety opportunities in the future. However, currently, even the highest level of self-driving technology available to the public requires a driver’s full engagement and undivided attention. 

Self-Driving Car Accident Who Is Responsible 

Establishing fault in a self-driving vehicle accident is crucial to securing compensation for injuries and damages. While self-driving car accident driver negligence is a leading cause of accidents involving these types of vehicles, other parties might also be responsible for an accident. Some potentially liable parties in these cases are discussed below. 

Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident in California?

Driver of Vehicle

Under California’s Civil Code §1714, a driver who failed to exercise ordinary care on the road might be liable for damages caused by their negligence. Currently, drivers operating self-driving cars must remain actively engaged and aware while on the road. If a driver causes an accident because they aren’t actively engaged in operating their self-driving vehicle, they might have been negligent. 

Owner of Vehicle

Under California Civil Code § 17150, if the at-fault driver was operating the vehicle with the owner’s permission, the owner might be liable for the accident. That means that even if the car’s owner was not driving the vehicle when your accident occurred, they might still be responsible for paying you compensation for your injuries.

Governmental Entity 

In cases where an accident results from unsafe or defective roadways, the injury victim might have a claim against a governmental entity. These cases fall under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA). Because of sovereign immunity principles, CTCA claims are challenging to pursue. However, an attorney can review your case to determine if your claim would fall under an exception to the CTCA. 

Product Liability for Self-Driving Accidents 

In some cases, the self-driving vehicle operator might claim the accident resulted from a design or manufacturing defect. In that case, you might consider pursuing a claim against the car’s manufacturer or seller by filing a product liability claim. Product liability claims typically involve the following:

  • Manufacturing defects,
  • Design defects, or 
  • Failure to warn claims

When it comes to accidents involving self-driving cars, these claims often encompass allegations of defects such as the following:

  • Software glitches,
  • System failures, or
  • Failure to allow the driver to take control.

Most driverless vehicle systems use a combination of radars, cameras, and computers to control speed, braking, and lane departures. 

Under California’s product liability laws, the company that designs, manufactures, or sells a defective vehicle or vehicle part might be strictly liable for injuries the defective product causes. Because these are strict liability claims, the victim does not need to establish that the company was negligent. Instead, the car accident victim must prove that the self-driving car or system part was dangerous and caused the accident. 

Learn More About Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident in California by Speaking with an Experienced Attorney 

If you or a loved one was recently injured in a car accident involving a self-driving car, you might be entitled to financial compensation for your accident-related expenses. However, because self-driving car accident cases involve the intersection of technology and the law, they can be highly complex. At Beliz Law Firm, we have over a decade of hands-on experience aggressively pursuing fair compensation on behalf of our clients. We recognize that serious accidents add stress and anxiety to your life that you shouldn’t have to deal with—and we will do everything we can to make the recovery process as easy on you and your family as possible. To learn more about how Beliz Law Firm can help you, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.  

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars