We’ve heard about it for years. Driverless cars will bring an end to traffic crashes and change how traffic laws are enforced. But that’s not happening. Self-driving cars are causing accidents. If you’re injured by a driverless vehicle, auto accident lawyers in San Antonio are here to help.
As self-driving technology is more frequently being tested on streets and highways across the nation, accidents involving these vehicles are raising new legal issues that will become even more important as driverless vehicles become more popular.
Who’s at fault, for example, when driverless vehicles injure innocent drivers, passengers, or pedestrians? What are your rights if you are injured by a self-driving vehicle? Will you be compensated for your injuries in these cases? Keep reading – you’re about to get some answers.
ARE DRIVERLESS VEHICLES SAFE?
The promise is that driverless vehicles will take us everywhere efficiently and safely. Electronic scanners will monitor nearby vehicles and – we’re told – make constant safety adjustments. But so far, the self-driving vehicles haven’t established a very impressive safety record.
Wikipedia reports at least five fatalities in the United States in driverless vehicle accidents since 2016. The first pedestrian death linked to a driverless vehicle happened in 2018 in Arizona. In the Oakland-San Francisco area alone, eighty-eight driverless car crashes have been reported.
Our streets and highways were not designed for driverless vehicles. With safety in mind, most of the first driverless vehicles are moving at extremely low speeds – so slowly, in fact, that human drivers would be ticketed for obstructing traffic.
In most accidents to date that have involved driverless vehicles, it is impatient human drivers who have been at fault. Given that it’s programmed to protect human drivers and pedestrians, a driverless vehicle can often seem overly cautious, indecisive, or inactive.
WHO REGULATES DRIVERLESS VEHICLES?
The federal government counts on the makers of driverless vehicles to self-regulate, but several states are developing reasonable and effective regulatory measures. California allows driverless cars to operate only if they meet the basic safety standards required for all other vehicles.
Driverless cars have been on the streets and highways in Texas since 2015. In 2017, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a statute that requires driverless cars in this state to be:
- in full compliance with all Texas traffic laws
- equipped with video recording technology
The Texas law also makes driverless vehicle manufacturers liable for accidents and traffic violations, provided that the vehicle’s automated systems have not been tampered with or modified by anyone other than the vehicle’s manufacturer.
WHEN ARE DRIVERS RESPONSIBLE? WHEN IS TECHNOLOGY RESPONSIBLE?
When someone is injured by any vehicle that’s on the road, liability for the accident is at least partially determined by the “level” of the vehicle’s technology. Take cruise control, for example, which is already an older technology.
We presume that a driver who uses cruise control will remain alert and will be able to slow the vehicle when conditions warrant. If the vehicle crashes because the driver wasn’t paying attention, liability falls on the driver, not the manufacturer.
But when you add traffic monitoring and automated speed adjustment to a vehicle, what are a driver’s obligations? In the most advanced vehicles, humans are essentially just passengers. They do not expect that they will be needed to prevent crashes – or held liable when crashes occur.
HOW ARE MOST ACCIDENTS WITH INJURIES HANDLED TODAY?
In accidents that involve human drivers, if an injury victim seeks compensation, the victim must prove that the other driver was negligent, and that this negligence caused the collision – and the personal injury or injuries. The negligent driver will be held liable and may have to pay damages.
However, when a traffic accident that involves human drivers is caused by faulty or defective equipment, the manufacturer can be held accountable with a product liability claim and found liable for the accident and the resultant injuries.
Flaws in a vehicle’s computerized systems – defective coding – isn’t the equivalent of faulty brakes or exploding airbags, but the creators of the defective coding, meaning the vehicle’s manufacturer, will probably be held liable if accidents and injuries happen due to the defect.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY?
The RAND Corporation – a government and corporate “think tank” – is predicting that the manufacturers of driverless vehicles will increasingly be held liable for injuries caused by these vehicles, while those who own and operate these vehicles will increasingly not be held liable.
If you are injured in or near the San Antonio area in an accident with a self-driving vehicle, as soon as you have been examined and treated by a healthcare professional, discuss your rights and options with an experienced San Antonio personal injury attorney.
In Texas, the injured victims of negligence are entitled by law to full compensation for their accident-related medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other related losses and damages. But you’re not just handed compensation. You have to prove that you are entitled to it.
WHAT WILL AN INJURY LAWYER DO TO HELP YOU?
A Texas personal injury lawyer will review your claim and provide you with a free, no-obligation, first legal consultation. If you have grounds to file a personal injury claim, and if you agree to move forward with that claim, your attorney will:
- compile and examine the case and the evidence
- question witnesses and obtain their statements
- negotiate with the party that injured you (or that party’s attorney) for a settlement
- take your case to trial if a reasonable settlement offer is not forthcoming
You will pay no attorney’s fee until – and unless – you receive the compensation you seek. The “contingent fee” system allows every personal injury victim – whether that victim’s circumstances are affluent or modest – to have a day in court and a chance to seek justice.
IF YOU’VE BEEN INJURED, WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE LEGAL ACTION?
The statute of limitations in Texas gives you two years – from the date of an accident – to file a claim for personal injury, product liability, or wrongful death, but if you’re injured by a self-driving vehicle, you cannot wait two years to speak with auto accident lawyers in San Antonio.
Contact an attorney immediately after you’ve been injured, examined, and treated. Memories fade quickly and evidence deteriorates rapidly, so the sooner you are able to speak with an attorney, the more likely it is that your personal injury or product liability claim will prevail.
In the future, we may live in a world of self-driving cars without accidents or injuries. But the future isn’t here yet. If you’re injured by a self-driving car – or by a negligent driver in Texas – talk with a San Antonio accident lawyer at once. That’s your right, and it’s the right thing to do.