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Driverless Cars – Potential Liability Issues

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but experts claim it’s a lot closer to reality than you think. Google has been working to develop robotic cars that operate in normal traffic without a human driver. If the project succeeds—three states have already passed laws allowing the licensing of robotic cars, the implications will be widespread, with significant impact on automobile manufacturers, insurance companies, personal injury lawyers and others. This blog looks at the potential liability issues involving driverless cars.

The Key Question—Who Is At Fault?

While proponents assert that driverless vehicles will end motor vehicle accident personal injury claims, that may be highly optimistic. The envisioned use of driverless vehicles does not assume that the cars will not have passengers, but that those riding in the cars will simply program in their final destination, and the vehicle will take them where they want to go. Breakdowns are likely to occur, and other causes of accidents can be envisioned. The key question, then, is “who will be at fault?”

In the American civil justice system, recovery for personal injury is typically based on a theory of negligence. To recover compensation under such a theory, you must show first that there was a duty to act reasonably. You must also demonstrate that someone failed to act reasonably, that an accident occurred because of that failure, and that personal injury was suffered as a result.

Typically, one or both drivers involved in an accident have breached the duty to act reasonably (either by speeding, failing to obey traffic laws, driving under the influence of alcohol, etc.). If there is no driver, then the law will have to look elsewhere for potential liability. It may be at the manufacturer, if it can be shown that there was negligence in design or manufacturer. It could be to the owner of the vehicle, if the likelihood exists that the owner programmed the vehicle improperly.

Contact Howard D. Popper, P.C., P.C.

Contact us online or call our office at 973-993-8787 to set up a free initial consultation. We have office locations in Morristown and Newton, but will visit you in your home or the hospital, if necessary.

We take all personal injury claims on a contingency basis. You will not incur legal fees unless attorney Popper recovers compensation for your losses.