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

Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents in Florida

As we begin to see more and more self-driving vehicles on our roadways, there is sure to be a rise in the number of self-driving car accidents. Already, we have seen driverless car accidents making national news. According to initial data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 400 motor vehicle accidents between July 1, 2021 and May 15, 2022 were linked to partial self-driving vehicles and vehicles equipped with driver assistance systems. Most of these crashes involved Teslas that were in “Autopilot” or “Full Self-Driving” mode.

For Florida drivers, the advent of self-driving vehicles—and the increased risk of self-driving car accidents—raises several concerns. Perhaps most important is the question of who is at fault in a self-driving car accident. If the owner is not actually driving the vehicle, can they be held liable for a crash? Is the auto manufacturer responsible? The answer to both questions is yes, depending on the situation, both the driver and the manufacturer of the driverless vehicle could be partially or entirely liable.

Continue reading to learn more, or contact The Law Offices of Ron Sholes, P.A. at (855) 933-3881 for a free consultation with our self-driving car accident lawyers today.

When Is the Owner of a Self-Driving Vehicle Responsible for Accident-Related Damages?

The owner or operator of a self-driving vehicle could be legally responsible for an accident in certain situations. In fact, human error remains a leading cause of self-driving vehicle accidents throughout the United States.

Although the vehicle essentially drives itself, the human driver (or owner) is still responsible for remaining alert and, when necessary, taking over the operation of the vehicle. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the operators of self-driving vehicles often rely too heavily on their vehicles’ autonomous features. They may engage in negligent behaviors they would never do in a regular car, such as reading, eating, using a computer, or even sleeping at the wheel.

The owner or operator of a self-driving vehicle could be considered at fault for an accident if they:

  • Were not using the vehicle’s self-driving/autonomous features
  • Failed to remain alert behind the wheel while using self-driving/autonomous features
  • Failed to regain control of the vehicle when necessary to avoid an accident
  • Were under the influence of alcohol or drugs behind the wheel
  • Were distracted or otherwise negligent when operating the self-driving vehicle

It’s important that you work with a skilled attorney who has experience handling self-driving vehicle accident claims. At The Law Offices of Ron Sholes, P.A., we know how to determine whether the operator was partially or entirely at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. We also know how to utilize important evidence and cutting-edge legal technology to build powerful cases and aggressively pursue maximum compensation for our clients.

Manufacturer & Third-Party Liability in Self-Driving Car Accidents

Sometimes, the self-driving vehicle operator does everything they should, but they still cannot prevent an accident from occurring. This may happen if there is a problem with the vehicle itself or its autonomous technology. In such cases, the manufacturer or another third party may be liable.

The self-driving vehicle manufacturer could be liable for an accident if the crash occurred as a result of a defect with the vehicle’s:

  • Autonomous technology
  • Software
  • Operator override systems
  • Braking components or system
  • Steering
  • Sensors
  • Tires
  • Seatbelts
  • Airbags
  • Engine components

This is not an exhaustive list; if the self-driving vehicle contained any type of defect, the manufacturer may be liable for damages suffered by the victims of the crash.

Additionally, a third party could be partially or entirely at fault. For example, if the manufacturer contracts a third party to design the vehicle’s autonomous technology, and that technology failed, leading to the crash, that third party could be liable.

Does No-Fault Insurance Cover Self-Driving Car Accidents in Florida?

While there are no current laws relating to no-fault insurance and self-driving vehicle accidents in Florida, the state’s no-fault car insurance system provides certain benefits to those injured in auto accidents, regardless of who was at fault. This means that you could be entitled to financial compensation for your accident-related damages after a self-driving car accident, regardless of who was at fault for the crash.

Under your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, you can receive compensation up to 80% of your “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses following the accident, up to $10,000 or your policy limit. You may also be entitled to 60% of your lost income, up to $10,000 or your policy limit. If someone you love passed away after a fatal self-driving car accident, you could receive up to $5,000 in funeral/burial expenses through PIP.

You do not need to prove fault to be eligible for PIP benefits. However, if your damages exceed your policy limits, you may wish to go outside the no-fault system and bring a claim against the liable party. To do this, you will have to prove that you have suffered an injury that meets the state’s “serious injury” threshold. You will also have to prove fault, as well as demonstrate the nature and extent of your injuries and damages.

Should You Hire a Lawyer After a Self-Driving Car Accident?

All motor vehicle accident claims can be complex, but those involving self-driving cars tend to be much more complicated than standard car accident cases. Issues with fault, liability, and relatively new laws and regulations for these types of vehicles can all significantly complicate your case. We strongly recommend that you work with an experienced attorney, like ours at The Law Offices of Ron Sholes, P.A.

We have a long track record of success handling challenging motor vehicle accident cases—and winning the results our clients need. Our attorneys are ready to sit down with you, listen to your story, and share how they can help with your case. You do not owe any legal fees unless we recover compensation on your behalf.

Call us today at (855) 933-3881 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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Call The Law Offices of Ron Sholes, P.A. at 855-WE-FIGHT or fill out and submit our online contact form to request a free initial consultation today. We look forward to hearing your story and sharing how we can help you get back on your feet.

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