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Self-Driving Cars and Personal Injury Claims DC Car Accident Lawyer

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Date27 Jan 2021
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Self-Driving Vehicles Washington DC Auto Accident Lawyer

In 2018, a woman named Elaine Herzberg was struck and killed by Rafaela Vasquez. Ms. Vasquez was at the wheel of a self-driving Volvo, participating in Uber’s autonomous vehicle program. The vehicle did not notice Ms. Herzberg as a collision risk. Ms. Vasquez failed to take control of the vehicle, as she was watching a television show at the time.

Who should be liable for Ms. Herzberg’s death? Should it be Uber, for not recognizing Ms. Herzberg as a collision risk and automatically braking? 

What about Ms. Vasquez? 

How should liability be determined in accidents involving self-driving vehicles?

The legal process has cleared Uber of any criminal charges, stating that there was no “basis for criminal liability.” Ms. Vasquez’s trial is set for February 2021. After investigating the accident, the US National Transportation Safety board concluded that “the probable cause [was a] failure of the operator to monitor their surroundings and the automated system.”

While Ms. Herzberg’s death was the first death involving autonomous vehicles, there have been several since, and as more of these vehicles enter our streets, that number will increase. The law will have to evolve. 

self driving vehicle injury claim

There are 6 levels, according to the Society of Automotive Engineering. Level 0 has no automation. Level 1 has some automation, like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. Level 2 has partial automation. In Level 2, the vehicle can control both steering and braking, but the human must be on alert at all times and perform other tasks related to driving. Level 3 is conditional automation. The vehicle can perform all tasks under certain circumstances, but the driver must be ready to regain control if prompted by the system. There is high automation in Level 4. The vehicle can perform all tasks and monitor the environment in certain circumstances, in which the human driver does not need to pay attention. However, the driver still needs to be ready to assume control. Level 5 is full automation. The human driver does not need to do anything. Currently, Level 3 vehicles are on the roads. Level 4 and Level 5 vehicles are still in testing.

In car accidents involving self-driving vehicles, at least three groups may be held liable: the driver, the car manufacturer, or the car’s system designer. 

For the foreseeable future, Level 3 vehicles will remain the most automated vehicle on the road. Because the driver is required to be ready to assume control, he or she will most likely remain liable.

However, if it can be proven that there is a fault in the vehicle or the system, liability will probably change. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation!

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