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What If I Am in a Car Accident With a Self- Driving Car?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

While many are ready to welcome our new self-driving car overlords, technology may not be ready to save us from the common car crash just yet. It turns out Google's self-driving car doesn't have the spotless driving record many thought after the company admitted its driverless cars have been in 11 accidents.

Google's Chris Urmson was quick to point out that "Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident," but in the future, this might not always be the case. So what should you do if you're in an accident with a self-driving car?

Act Normal

By law, all the cars being tested, though they are capable of self-driving, have had a human observer in the vehicle. So if there is someone in the car, you can follow the normal procedure following a car accident: make sure everyone is OK, call the police if the accident is serious, and document the accident as best as you can for future reference.

In general, an accident with a self-driving car should be fairly similar to a normal car accident.

Cleaner Collisions?

There may, however, some differences if you're in a car accident with a self-driving car. Bryant Walker Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law told The Associated Press, "Assuming that you are not dead, you are in a much better position than if you had been hit by an ordinary, human-driven vehicle." This is because the company who made the car will have deep pockets, and may have a strong incentive to settle any lawsuit quickly to avoid any bad publicity.

Also, if a car in self-driving mode hits another car or pedestrian, the case could involve product liability, which could be easier to demonstrate than proving negligence. Showing fault in a product liability case can be more straightforward, and certain states have laws that make it easier to claim design defects, which would be central in a claim against a self-driving car manufacturer.

The AP also pointed out that self-driving cars "are required to record and store the last 30 seconds of a data before any accident," so trying to discover what happened might be easier. If self-driving cars can't eliminate accidents completely, they may do away with contradicting accounts regarding the color of the traffic light.

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