With the yearly updates pushing Teslas closer and closer to full automation, and the various start ups working on fully autonomous vehicles, we may soon have the dream of driverless cars across the United States.
However, until then, the roads in North Carolina and throughout the country are fraught with a hodgepodge of different technologies to assist drivers. This can lead some to wonder, if one of these vehicles hit me, do I sue the car?
Understanding the technology
First, before exploring whom to sue, it is important to understand the distinction between fully autonomous vehicles, which are relatively rare, and driver-assisted vehicles that number in the tens of millions. Honda alone accounts for 6 million and Tesla another 1 million.
Driver-assisted vehicles include any vehicle that has any technology that drives for the driver. Fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) may not even have a steering wheel and are still experimental. There are fewer of these on the nation’s roads, and they operate only in limited areas.. Accordingly, it is much more likely that you will be in an accident with one a driver assisted vehicle than a full AV.
In a personal injury lawsuit, like the ones that flow from a motor vehicle accident, a court determines who was at fault and apportions responsibility based on that fault.
For example, it is entirely possible that a driver-assisted system malfunction and caused a car accident, even though the driver was using it appropriately and reasonably. And, it is also possible that a driver abused their vehicle’s self-driving features, resulting in a car accident. The legal implications can be very different depending on the facts of the case.
Driver not at fault
In a situation where a driver was truly not at fault, their insurance company may still deem the driver at fault due to the nature of our current legal landscape.
It’s possible in some of these cases that the car manufacturer could hold some liability in these cases.
This is why it is so important to get an attorney involved early. The legal issues can get complicated quickly.
Driver at fault
If a driver was utilizing a driver assisted system, they have a duty to do so according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Currently, most, if not all driver assisted technologies mandate that the driver be aware, awake, behind the wheel and physically holding the steering wheel and aware of their surroundings.
The auto manufacturers do this to avoid liability when their systems fail. They want the ability to blame the driver.