I Was Hit By a Self-Driving Car: Who Is Legally Liable for the Crash? By Robert L. Froerer on September 09, 2023

A car accident

When a car accident occurs, one of the first questions often asked is, “Who is at fault?” Insurance providers must determine liability because the responsible party is accountable for related economic and non-economic damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Establishing collision liability is rarely straightforward since few drivers admit fault for a crash. However, the issue becomes more complex when a self-driving vehicle is involved. The car accident attorneys at Froerer & Miles, serving Ogden, UT, and Layton, UT, work with individuals hit by a self-driving car to determine who is legally liable for the crash and who they can sue for losses.

Levels of Vehicle Autonomy

As technology advances, the number of self-driving cars is likely to increase. However, not all self-driving vehicles are the same. Many cars have some degree of autonomous capabilities. When determining liability for a car accident involving a self-driving vehicle, the level of autonomy must be considered.

  • Level 0 - The driver is in complete control of the vehicle at all times
  • Level 1 - The vehicle can assist the driver or take limited control at times, examples include cruise control and lane guidance
  • Level 2 - The vehicle can occasionally take complete control of speed or lane position
  • Level 3 - The vehicle monitors the road and traffic and will take full control in some situations (the driver is notified before the vehicle takes control)
  • Level 4 - The vehicle is in full control for the entire trip under certain circumstances
  • Level 5 - The vehicle can operate without a human driver or occupants

Utah Laws Regarding Self-Driving Vehicles

Self-driving vehicles are still a new innovation, so many states have yet to establish legislation regarding these vehicles. Utah is one of the first states to directly address autonomous vehicles. House Bill 101, signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert in March 2019, makes it legal for autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads throughout the state. More importantly concerning car accident liability, the law redefines “vehicle operator.” The law expands the definition to legally consider the computer system in an autonomous vehicle as a driver.

Who Can I Sue for Car Accident Damages?

There are a lot of factors that must be considered when determining liability for a car accident involving a self-driving vehicle, including:

  • The accident causation (the main event that caused the crash)
  • The level of vehicle autonomy
  • Whether or not the vehicle had a licensed driver behind the wheel at the time of the accident
  • If the accident was caused by driver error, computer error, or a vehicle malfunction

Depending on the details of a car accident, collision victims may be able to sue the vehicle driver (which may include the vehicle’s computer system), the vehicle manufacturer, or a parts manufacturer. The attorneys at Froerer & Miles work with investigators and accident recreationists to establish fault and assist our Ogden clients in suing liable parties for crash damages.

Contact Us

Determining liability for a crash involving an autonomous vehicle is complex. We highly recommend working with knowledgeable car accident attorneys, such as those at Froerer & Miles, to determine who is responsible for collision damages. To discuss the details of your accident with our legal team, contact our law firm and request a consultation at your earliest convenience.

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