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Who Is Responsible for Self-Driving Car Accidents?

In a world where self-driving cars are no longer a concept of the future but rather an active part of our present, discussions around liability and responsibility are growing in both complexity and importance. As major manufacturers pour resources into developing increasingly autonomous technology, several questions arise: What happens when there’s an accident involving one of these vehicles? Who is at fault?

Pinning blame becomes much harder than it would be with traditional vehicle incidents because there are more components, individuals, and companies potentially involved in these circumstances. The following are some of the most common parties that could be held liable for an accident of this nature:

The Driver

Drivers are often considered liable for accidents, even with self-driving cars. While autonomous technology continues to advance, the human element cannot be fully disregarded. Negligent driving can and does still arise, as drivers have significant control over most aspects of driving still. This could include speeding, running stop signs or red lights, driving under the influence, or tailgating, among other dangerous behaviors.

The Manufacturer

In some instances, the manufacturer of the self-driving car can be held responsible for accidents under product liability law.

Product liability refers to a situation where consumers suffer harm due to defective goods or services provided by manufacturers or retailers. When applied to autonomous cars, your claim would need evidence indicating that there was a fault within the vehicle or its software or other components which led to your accident.

Third-Party Companies

Third-party companies may also hold a degree of responsibility in the case of an accident involving a self-driving car. Manufacturers often integrate various components from other suppliers, including tires, sensors, or even entire autonomous driving systems.

If it’s discovered that these third-party components possessed some inherent flaw leading to the malfunctioning of your vehicle and resulted in an accident, then you might successfully take legal action against such companies alongside pursuing claims against the primary manufacturer.

Party Responsible For Negligent Vehicle Repairs

An investigation could reveal that negligent vehicle repairs or maintenance played a significant role in your accident. Faulty service, poor workmanship, or the use of substandard parts can cause malfunctions resulting in collisions.

Party Responsible For Poor Road Condition

Poor road conditions due to ineffective construction and repair practices can also contribute to accidents involving self-driving cars. This encompasses situations like incomplete signage, unsafe detour layouts during roadwork, or basic road resurfacing that hasn’t been adequately completed.

You Could Be Partially To Blame

In some instances, you may be found partially liable for the accident. Partial liability can occur if it’s determined that your actions contributed to the incident to a certain extent.

Colorado operates under what is known as modified comparative negligence. This means that if you’re more than 50% responsible for causing an accident, this forfeits your right completely in terms of claiming damages you incurred from the accident. 

However, if you are found to be 50% or less responsible for the accident, you may still receive compensation – although it will be adjusted according to your percentage of fault:

“(1) Contributory negligence shall not bar recovery in any action by any person or his legal representative to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or in injury to person or property, if such negligence was not as great as the negligence of the person against whom recovery is sought, but any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person for whose injury, damage, or death recovery is made.”

For instance, if damages amounted to $20,000 but it was determined that you were 25% at fault for causing the crash due to distracted driving, your award would reduce by 25%, giving you a final amount of $15,000.

Ultimately, if someone else causes or contributes to your accident, they retain responsibility for their part regardless of whether the car you operated was autonomous or not. Establishing liability is both complex and critical after an accident, but with the right legal representation, it can be done. Contact our car accident lawyers in Colorado Springs today to schedule a free consultation.