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What Does the First Fatal Accident with a Self-Driving Car Mean?


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Driverless vehicles—you might have heard of them or seen them being tested around town. Theoretically, these autonomous cars are supposed to make driving safer for the public, as most vehicle wrecks are caused by human error.

At this stage, however, these vehicles aren’t fully driverless. A human driver is supposed to take over if the computerized driving system makes a mistake. Nevertheless, there have been a few accidents involving driverless cars, including at least one fatality.

One fatal crash took place in Tempe, Arizona, and involved an autonomous Uber vehicle and a pedestrian. Video released by Tempe police shows that the driver, who was supposed to take over in the event of a problem, was apparently not paying attention to the road.

Elaine Herzberg was the name of the pedestrian who was walking her bike across the street when she was struck and became the first pedestrian to be killed by a driverless vehicle.

Who’s Liable When a Self-Driving Car Injures or Kills Someone?

This tragic incident is raising questions about safety and liability. Some may be wondering if driverless vehicles are safer than human drivers after all, but until we have enough of these vehicles on the road to do a real study, it would be next to impossible to tell which option would be safest.

Liability is also an important issue that comes up with incidents like this. The family of the victim may deserve compensation for what happened to Herzberg, but who would be liable? Consider the following:

  • Was this fatal crash the fault of the pedestrian who wasn’t using a crosswalk?
  • Was it the fault of the driver who might have placed too much faith in the autopilot that was operating the vehicle at the time of the crash?
  • Would liability rest with companies like Uber that are utilizing these vehicles, perhaps before they’re fully tested and safe?
  • Could it be the vehicle manufacturers that are to blame?

Multiple Parties Could Be Liable

Every accident is unique, and figuring out who would be responsible for such an accident is the work of a personal injury lawyer. It’s more than possible that all the parties listed above could share some liability for this incident.

Liability could fall on the manufacturer for releasing a vehicle that isn’t operating properly; the driver for failure to keep eyes on the road; and the company that hired the driver. And yes, even the victim could share at least some legal fault for this collision, which could limit the damages the family could recover in a wrongful death claim.

Get in Touch with a Personal Injury Attorney

Whatever type of vehicle wreck you’ve been involved in, an attorney from our firm can help. Whether your crash occurred with another driver, a rideshare driver, a trucker, or a self-driving car, you should contact the Law Offices of Casey D. Shomo to discuss your case with a lawyer. We can help determine who would be liable in your case.

To speak with a personal injury attorney during a free case evaluation, fill out the form below or dial 561-659-6366.

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