The future is now when it comes to the technology of self-driving cars. There are more driverless cars on Arizona’s roads than realized, and the chances of one of these cars being involved in an accident, with injuries, grow.
An accident involving a self-driven car does not change the premise of a personal injury case. What changes is the number of parties who could potentially hold some level of responsibility for the cause of the accident. As the number of parties increase, the potential for mitigating circumstances in favor of the driver also increases.
Arizona follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. This means that any party involved in a car accident can file a personal injury claim against the other driver regardless of the allocation of fault. Theoretically, a person with 99% responsibility for an accident can file a claim against the other party.
Let’s be clear—the responsibility for an accident does not mean intent. The key word is accident, and this means there was no intent by either party to cause the accident.
The doctrine of comparative negligence does not apply in criminal cases where intent exists.
The parties who could potentially hold some degree of negligence are the drivers of the vehicles involved, the manufacturer of the car and any of the component parts and, perhaps, the person or entity responsible for maintaining the vehicle. When injuries and damages occur from an accident involving a driverless car, the developer of the technology behind the self-driving software and the designer of the vehicle could also be found to carry some degree of liability. These additional parties are two separate entities.
The drivers of self-driving cars are not absolved of responsibility. The driver of these vehicles has the same duties as all other drivers—to remain diligent and free from distractions while on the road. All drivers have a duty of care to take appropriate action to either avoid an accident or to minimize the extent of it. The technology could disengage, and not all road hazards can be detected and processed by the software.
The malfunction of the technology and/or its compatibility to the vehicle’s design and to the component parts could mitigate the fault placed upon the driver.
The components of a driverless car have the potential to cause more serious injuries than the accident alone. The fires resulting from these crashes are electrical and metal. These types of fires burn hotter and longer than the batteries and materials of vehicles without these technological advancements.
Personal injury claims involving self-driving cars do not change the basic premise of allocating responsibility. The additional parties will lessen the level of fault placed upon the driver if it can be proved that the technology or the design of the vehicle played a role in the accident’s cause.
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