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Autonomous Vehicles and Traffic Liability Lawsuits

They may be the wave of the future, but their presence is off to a shaky start. Autonomous vehicles are slowly being introduced onto American highways, and though there is no running count on how many times they have been successful, they have accounted for at least two deaths. Additionally, there was a recent news article in which a motorcyclist was injured in an accident with an autonomous vehicle.

That begs the question: Who is liable in an accident with an autonomous vehicle?

The Same Rules Apply

The car’s AI has the same “duty of care” that a human has. If the AI is responsible for the accident, however, it is not litigated like your difficult traffic injury lawsuit. Instead, it is litigated more like a product liability suit with elements of traffic injury law.

Motorcyclist Sues General Motors After Crash

Oscar Nilsson of California filed a lawsuit against General Motors after a traffic accident involving an autonomous vehicle. Motorcyclists, regardless of whether or not they are truly at fault, often get blamed for accidents involving cars. They have a reputation and it is not a reputation for safe driving.

During the accident, Nilsson claims that the autonomous vehicle pulled out of the center lane and into the left lane when it sensed a car that was accelerating from behind. At this point, Nilsson tried to shift into the center lane, but as he did, the autonomous vehicle self-corrected and returned to the middle lane. There is only one problem. Nilsson now occupied that lane.

GM responded by blaming Nilsson for the accident and accused him of “lane splitting” which is an unsafe and illegal maneuver motorcyclists sometimes use. They create a de facto lane by driving between two vehicles in adjacent lanes. In fact, the police report accused Nilsson of attempting to pull off the dangerous and illegal maneuver and essentially blamed him for the accident.

There are two key points of interest that we can glean from this tale. First, motorcyclists often face an unwarranted bias and second, police reports can be wrong. While GM never did admit fault in the accident, they paid Nilsson a handsome settlement.

If not for the fact that the accident involved a self-driving car, this could describe thousands of accidents that occur every year on the U.S. highways.

So, when struck by an autonomous vehicle, the company that designed the car is liable if the AI malfunctions.

Talk to a Rockford, Illinois Personal Injury and Traffic Liability Attorney

The attorneys at Brassfield, Krueger, & Ramlow have secured excellent settlements and jury verdicts for our clients. If you have been injured by another’s negligence, give us a call or contact us online and we can begin discussing your case today.

Published December 4, 2018

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