Completely driverless cars are not here yet, but many companies have made cars with automated features. Tesla even calls its system Autopilot, though hundreds of accident videos show that it cannot safely operate a car in routine traffic without substantial human interaction.
Nevertheless, too many drivers negligently turn over the operation of their cars to automation systems that crash them into other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists. When a so-called autonomous vehicle crashes into someone, the victim can sue.
Our California self-driving car accident lawyers at Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos are ready to fight your claim for you. Our staff has helped clients in San Mateo with many car accidents. Our California personal injury lawyers can give you the confidence you need while we work toward compensation from the other party.
How Many Self-Driving Car Crashes Happen Annually?
Thousands of car collisions take place in California annually. Over 3,300 of them are fatal accidents. However, some people may not be aware of the few cases of self-driving vehicle collisions.
Many car companies have been testing self-driving systems in the past few years. Several companies have put partially-automated vehicles on the streets in states like California. The number of autonomous vehicles on the road is far less than manual cars. However, agencies have reported hundreds of accidents.
Over 400 crashes occur a year, and 273 involve Teslas. Accidents happen when cars use the so-called Autopilot feature or other driver assistance programs. With further development, self-driving cars could potentially decrease crashes, and many already do. Nevertheless, a person still has the chance of sustaining injuries from one, especially if drivers fail to monitor their cars or trust self-driving features to do more than they can.
Who Is Liable for a Self-Driving Car Accident?
Plenty of causes are possible when a person fully controls the movement of their vehicle. Since self-driving cars are an emerging market, some people wonder how an accident could occur. However, true full automation is not possible at the moment.
Even the most advanced Tesla available to the public still requires driver interaction. Therefore, the other motorist could still be liable for your injuries. They may have taken their focus off the road. Phone use, daydreaming, and talking to passengers are common forms of distraction.
Nevertheless, self-driving cars have a high risk of crashing due to malfunctions. They generally have more reliance on cameras, sensors, and software programs. Any aspect of the vehicle’s technology could experience an error. Even a minor issue can lead to severe consequences.
You can hold manufacturers like General Motors or Tesla liable for a malfunction. A person could hold the software developer accountable as well. Nonetheless, the issue of liability could remain unclear. Meet with a California self-driving lawyer to learn who might be responsible for your injuries.
The Levels of Autonomous Vehicles
NHTSA created six levels of automation as car companies work toward fully automated vehicles. Knowing how advanced the other vehicle is could help you determine who likely owes you money for damages.
The levels are:
- Momentary driver assistance. At level zero, the car practically has no automation. The driver is responsible for driving and monitoring. The car does have features to assist motorists, but the software has no control.
- Driver assistance. Level one self-driving cars use autonomous assistance with either braking, cruise control, or steering. However, the motorist must remain attentive and know when to disengage automotive driving systems.
- Additional Assistance. Level two vehicles are the highest ones available to the public in the United States. The system offers ongoing assistance over braking and steering simultaneously. Nevertheless, the motorist remains responsible for driving.
- Conditional Automation. At level three, the car’s system assumes control over driving and other tasks. The motorist should be available to take over if necessary. At the moment, conditional automation is not available for consumers.
- High Automation. Level four vehicles are responsible for driving but operate in limited areas. The people inside do not need to be ready to take control. The car company likely would be the liable party.
- Full automation. At level five, the car has complete responsibility and can operate universally. The people inside become passengers and do not need to engage. While the technology is not here yet, potential cases might be against the company.
Regardless of the self-driving car’s level, someone may owe you compensation if their negligence led to the crash. An attorney gathers all the evidence to prove liability.
What to Expect From the Insurer
Since the other driver likely is liable, you may need to file a claim with their insurance company. Some insurers may deny liability and avoid issuing a payment. Others do provide compensation but may attempt to devalue the victim’s claim.
A Quick Settlement
One of the common tactics is to offer you a quick settlement. Usually, the amount is less than what you should get. However, the money may seem like a lot if you have not had the chance to know the extent of your injuries.
The adjuster relies on the lack of knowledge to convince you that your claim is worth the settlement. Once you sign the settlement release forms, you cannot pursue additional damages in the future. Instead of accepting, you may choose to reject the insurer’s offer.
Find a lawyer and get their advice. They may help you avoid getting far less money than the actual cost of your medical treatment.
A Medical Authorization Form
An insurance adjuster may request your signature on a medical authorization form when they call. One justification is the insurer needs access to medical bills to assess your claim thoroughly. The signed document would allow the insurance company to gain past medical records.
The adjuster may go through the records to find any details of prior injuries or complaints about discomfort. They then could use the information to argue your injuries existed before the accident.
Even if you have pre-existing injuries, the self-driving car accident may have worsened them. An attorney can find evidence to prove the connection.
Prolong the Documentation Process
Some adjusters attempt to delay the claim process to wear claimants down. A person might be more likely to accept a lower payment after a while. One strategy is to be slow with the paperwork.
Someone may receive documents one at a time. As a result, they have to wait longer before obtaining everything they need. Additionally, the adjuster may take a while to process the paperwork.
Dealings with the insurance company can be frustrating. Wait until you get a lawyer before you contact the adjuster. Furthermore, your attorney may call the insurer if the documentation process takes longer than it should.
Potential Damages in a Self-Driving Car Crash Claim
As the case progresses, an attorney determines what damages apply to your situation. They look at the severity of the losses and calculate the overall value.
Attorneys generally base settlements on:
- Medical bills. Compensation should cover past and expected future healthcare expenses. A lawyer typically waits until the injured party has healed enough to estimate the cost of treatment.
- Property damage. The other side may owe you reimbursement for the money you spend on vehicle repairs or replacement. Property damage includes damage to personal belongings the self-driving car caused in the collision.
- Lost income. An accident with a self-driving vehicle may have left you unable to work for a while. The value of a settlement increases the longer you cannot earn an income because of an injury.
- Loss of quality of life. Debilitating injuries and scarring tend to result in emotional distress and a decline in mental health. A person may not enjoy the same activities as before and withdraw socially.
- Pain and suffering. Severe accidents typically lead to physical and emotional discomfort. Since the damage does not include a loss of money, settlement calculations become difficult.
In addition, several other factors influence the estimated value of a self-driving car accident claim. Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have experience with settlements. We can look at the evidence and calculate a dollar amount you should pursue.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should You File an Accident Claim?
The right time to find a self-driving car accident lawyer is immediately after the accident. An attorney can get the necessary paperwork and start your claim as soon as possible. As a result, you do not have to worry about missing deadlines.
California has a strict deadline for injury cases involving autonomous vehicles. The civil court system allows victims two years to file their claims. The equivalent amount of time applies if a person dies because of the crash. After two years, the other party can have the judge dismiss the case on a technicality.
However, the law does allow a few people to pause or extend the statute of limitations in specific circumstances. For instance, the injured party might have been under 18 during the collision. They may have additional time to sue the other side for damages.
Contact a lawyer if you have concerns with the approaching deadline. We can go over your options.
What Evidence Do You Need?
Similar to other car crash cases, you must prove the other side was negligent in the autonomous vehicle accident. Strong evidence increases the likelihood of establishing liability successfully. Self-driving car collision lawyers know what information is necessary for a lawsuit.
Your attorney may ask for copies of X-rays, doctor’s notes, and other healthcare documents. Medical bills are helpful since they prove you suffered financial losses. Moreover, the expenses ensure you get the appropriate amount in compensation.
Photos are crucial as well. They show the court the damage to the vehicles and the nature of your injuries. Meanwhile, video from street and dash cameras display the events leading up to the crash.
Your lawyer may need to obtain eye-witness testimony as well. Witnesses can confirm your side of the story and build your case. You can get their contact information at the accident scene, or the police report may have their names and phone details.
How Do You Find the Right Lawyer for you?
A California self-driving car accident lawyer should have litigation experience. The attorney must understand the process and get the paperwork done on time. They should know the laws and how they apply to your case. Furthermore, find someone with trial experience since they would know the proper courtroom procedures should you need to take your claim to a jury.
The right lawyer must communicate well. They provide updates if something changes in the case. Additionally, your attorney should answer questions promptly. No one should have to wait days for an answer.
One effective way to search for a self-driving accident lawyer is to use the tools on the internet. Many firms have websites, and online directions provide lists of available attorneys. You can ask your friends or family if they know anyone who would consider your case.
Remember, you can visit multiple law firms. You do not have to settle with the first attorney you find if you are unsure if they are a fit for your claim.
Speak With Our California Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyers
At Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, we work hard to protect our clients’ rights. We take on insurance companies and use aggressive strategies to dispute their counterarguments. Our experience allows us to manage cases as efficiently as possible.
We find ways to maximize your potential compensation to help you get your life back on track. You can trust us to show you care and compassion during a stressful time. Contact our office at (650) 345-8484 for your free consultation.