When an Autonomous Vehicle Causes an Accident in Massachusetts, Who is Liable?
You must first properly identify the party whose negligence caused your accident before you may file a third-party claim or lawsuit. This can be uniquely challenging if you were struck by a self-driving car.
That’s partially because the laws regarding this matter are still developing and evolving. For instance, you might assume that if a self-driving vehicle causes an accident, the designers or manufacturers of the vehicle should be held liable.
Such an assumption is understandable. In circumstances when it can be shown an accident occurred because a vehicle component malfunctioned or was defective, it may genuinely be the case that a manufacturer or designer is found liable.
However, there are reasons to believe it might be more common for the owner of a self-driving car to be found liable when their autonomous vehicle strikes someone. Consider the following disclaimer from Tesla:
Active Supervision; Responsibility. Full Self-Driving capability features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. You’re responsible for any and all speeding, tolls, parking, and other traffic violations even when the features are in use. It’s your responsibility to make sure that you only use Full Self-Driving capability features when it’s safe and legal to do so.
This is just one example of the legal steps self-driving vehicle designers and manufacturers may take to protect themselves from liability when accidents occur. Although a car may be operating by itself, a human in the driver’s seat is still responsible for keeping an eye on the road and taking back control of the vehicle in order to prevent accidents.
Additionally, in California, when a Tesla on autopilot mode ran a red light and caused an accident that resulted in the death of another motorist, the vehicle’s owner was charged with manslaughter. This case establishes a precedent that may inform how liability is assigned in future civil cases.
The main point to understand is that determining how to proceed when seeking compensation after being struck by a self-driving vehicle can be a complex matter. That’s just one of many reasons to strongly consider enlisting the help of an attorney when planning to file a claim or lawsuit.
At Swartz & Swartz, P.C., a Boston car accident lawyer can review your case, explain your legal options, and offer the aggressive representation you deserve after someone else’s negligence causes an accident. Learn more about what we can do for you by contacting us online or calling us at (617) 742-1900.