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Legal Review: Self-Driving Car Accidents Lead to Legal Issues

By Personal Injury Attorney Hung Nguyen of 770GOODLAW, H.Q. (Alex) Nguyen Law Firm, LLC

Humans — not computers — may stand in the way of robocar progress, a recent article reveals. In fact, a study by Axios shows that people caused 81 out of the 88 self-driving car accidents reported in California since 2014. With over 55 companies acquiring permits to test self-driving cars in California alone, more data will surely follow.

Although the testing of robocars is increasing, how quickly self-driving cars enter mainstream roadways depends largely on how humans behave. So, where does this leave someone who is involved in a self-driving car accident — can a robocar be sued? A driver’s negligent conduct often is the cause of a car accident. But, when the driver is a robot, or a combination of both robot and human interaction, where liability lies becomes less obvious.

The unique mix of technology and human involvement in the operation of robocars opens the door to liability concerns. As a result, arguments regarding product liability and employer negligence arise in robocar accident scenarios. The manufacturers of self-driving cars, as well as the developer of the robocar technology, might find themselves subject to liability.

In addition to arguments regarding product liability, vicarious liability arguments may be made regarding the driver’s employer. Where the employer of a negligent human driver fails to offer proper training, the employer’s negligent conduct may give rise to liability.

As testing of robocars continues, the impact human involvement has on self-driving vehicles will continue to be tested as well. With numerous parties potentially liable for self-driving car accidents, it appears the question of whether you can sue a robocar is a question that will likely not be answered anytime soon. What is clear is that for the individual involved in a robocar accident, there are liability arguments to be made and legal recourse to be had.

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