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Car Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars in Tampa

Car accidents involving self-driving cars are a growing concern for Florida drivers. However, legal liability isn’t always clear. As companies race to put self-driving cars on the roads, the laws are struggling to keep up. If you’re in an accident with a self-driving car, you need to know who is liable. Our Tampa car accident attorneys explain car accidents involving self-driving cars.

Car Accidents Involving Self-Driving Cars

Car accidents involving self-driving cars may be the basis for legal liability. The manufacturer, the vehicle owner or a person in the vehicle may have legal liability for damages to a victim. The State of Florida allows self-driving cars to operate on the roads. However, standards for legal liability still apply. When you’re in an accident that involves a self-driving car, you may receive financial compensation by bringing a legal claim against the responsible party.

What is the Florida Autonomous Vehicle Law?

The Florida autonomous vehicle law is Florida Statute 316.85, which has been in effect since July 2019. Under the law, a person or corporation can put a driverless vehicle on the road. There does not need to be a human operator or even a person present in the car.

Companies that operate autonomous vehicles for commercial purposes must follow the laws that apply to transportation network companies. Car accident laws and product liability laws are still valid parts of Florida’s autonomous vehicle law.

What are the Levels of Self-Driving Cars?

There are several different levels of self-driving cars. Some vehicles are fully autonomous. Other cars use varying degrees of driver-assist technology while leaving the driver in control of the vehicle. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies cars into levels based on their degree of autonomy:

  • Level Zero – There is no autonomy in a level zero vehicle. The driver is entirely in control of all functions related to operating the vehicle.
  • Level One – The vehicle performs some functions that might otherwise be left to the driver. Some kinds of driver technology, like automatic distancing between vehicles, qualify as level one autonomy.
  • Level Two – With level two autonomy, the vehicle takes over more functions. The vehicle controls steering and acceleration. However, the human operator must be there and ready to take over at any time.
  • Level Three – At level three automation, safety functions are handled by the vehicle. However, a human must still be present and ready to assume control. The car performs more sophisticated and discerning functions than a level two autonomous vehicle.
  • Level Four – All level four vehicles must be able to complete an entire trip from start to finish. However, level four vehicles don’t perform in all scenarios. Under the right conditions, the vehicle can perform all of the functions of operating from start to finish.
  • Level Five – Level five is a fully automated vehicle. The vehicle has the same function and is equally as sophisticated as a human operator would be with a car in all situations. However, there is no involvement from a human operator at any time.

Self-Driving Cars and Car Accident Fault

Taking photo after car accidentWith traditional vehicles, determining fault in a car accident usually comes down to which driver causes the accident. The law looks at each driver’s actions to see who violated a traffic law or acted negligently. But what happens when there is no driver? What happens when an autonomous vehicle makes a driving mistake and causes a car accident? The answer is much more complex.

The first step is to determine the cause of the accident. It may have occurred because one of the sensors in the self-driving car failed to function properly. There may have been a software problem that caused the vehicle to fail to react safely to its surroundings. Determining the cause may take some investigating.

Lawsuits Against Self-Driving Car Company

When a problem with the self-driving car causes an accident, the vehicle’s manufacturer or owner may be to blame. There are several different legal standards that may apply based on the reason for the breakdown that results in the crash. Here are some of the ways legal liability may result in an accident:

1. Liability for the Vehicle Manufacturer 

  • Poor Design – All self-driving car manufacturers have a legal obligation to make safe vehicles. They can put technology out on the roads only when it works. A poor design can result in legal liability, even if the issue is accidental.
  • Manufacturing Defect – Manufacturing defects occur unintentionally when a vehicle is being built. A manufacturing defect can occur in both the hardware and the software of a vehicle. 
  • Inadequate Instructions – Along with each vehicle, the manufacturer must give adequate instructions to use it properly. In other words, they have to educate the consumer about how to use the car safely. A lack of instructions, or even poor instructions, can be the basis of legal liability.

2. Vehicle Owner Liability 

  • Poor Maintenance – It is up to each vehicle owner to get proper maintenance for their vehicle. Whether the owner is an individual or a corporation, they must make sure that the car gets the repairs and routine maintenance needed to be safe on the roads.
  • Negligent Use – An owner of a self-driving car should put a vehicle into use only when it is safe to do so. If weather conditions or other issues make it unsafe to use the car, the vehicle driver should not put others at risk by using their vehicle.

3. Maintenance Provider Negligence

  • Negligent Repairs – The company that performs maintenance and repairs on a vehicle has a duty to reasonable work standards. While a service provider doesn’t have strict liability in all situations, they can be held liable if their negligent work results in a crash.

Attorneys for Self-Driving Car Accidents in Tampa

Our attorneys can help you bring a claim for financial compensation after a self-driving car accident in Tampa. With over 30 years of experience and a fully-staffed legal team, we have the skills and determination to handle new and complex legal issues. We’re prepared to help you apply the law to the fullest extent in order to assert your rights. Contact the offices of Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys today to talk with a team member about your case.

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