22 Jun 2021

By Boris Tadchiev

In car accident

Most serious car accidents are caused by human error. Self-driving cars have the potential to prevent many crashes by avoiding common mistakes made by human drivers.

Fully self-driving cars operating on the Queens Expressway or public roads of New York are still many years away from becoming reality. The development and evolution of automated cars will present challenging questions of liability after accidents.

Driverless Car Accidents

Self-driving cars currently in development are being road-tested in limited situations such as on fully mapped roads in Phoenix, San Francisco, and Detroit. Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car development unit, reported its vehicles were involved in 47 accidents in 21 months in 2019-20 in Arizona. The company said no one was seriously injured and most of the collisions were caused by the other driver.

There has been very little testing of self-driving cars in New York because of lawmakers’ concerns about traffic safety on New York’s congested road highways.

New York law requires self-driving vehicles to have a police escort, a $5 million insurance policy, and provide in advance the specific route where the self-driving car will be tested.

Levels of Automation

Many newer vehicles on the roads today in New York have some level of driver assistance technology to prevent crashes such as blind-spot detection, lane departure warnings, rearview video systems, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control.

The Society of Automotive Engineers defines six levels of automation:

  1. No automation
  2. Driver assistance – Some driver assistance may be part of vehicle design.
  3. Partial automation – The vehicle has some automated features, but the driver must stay engaged with the task of driving.
  4. Conditional automation – The driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at any time.
  5. High automation – The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions, but the driver may have the option to control the vehicle.
  6. Full automation – The autonomous vehicle is capable of operating under all conditions. The driver may have the option to control the vehicle.

Who is Responsible When an Autonomous Vehicle Hurts People?

Is the Car or Driver Responsible? Most autonomous vehicles you see on the road these days are at level two or lower. Drivers behind the wheel of these vehicles are generally liable for accidents if they were negligent. These vehicles require drivers to stay fully attentive and ready to alter speed or steering.

If it can be shown that driver assistance technology failed to work as intended or had a design flaw, the manufacturer of the technology or the vehicle manufacturer may be financially liable for injuries caused by the vehicle.

Product liability cases require a detailed investigation to identify the design flaw or show how the product malfunction occurred.

How is Insurance Handled in Autonomous Vehicle Collisions?

It will depend on the specific details of the accident.

For the foreseeable future, driver’s insurance will be the first place to focus after collisions involving self-driving vehicles. For example, if a backup driver in a self-driving car fails to remain alert and take control when needed, the driver may be at fault.

The manufacturer of a product also may be responsible when the product causes harm. A claim may be filed against the car manufacturer’s insurance if a design defect or manufacturing defect caused an accident or the manufacturer failed to warn of recognizable hazards associated with the vehicle. The law is likely to evolve in this area as autonomous cars become more commonplace.

Contact Queens Car Accident Lawyer for Help

If you are injured in a car accident in Queens, N.Y., whether it involves a traditional auto or a vehicle equipped with the most advanced driver assistance technology, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you determine who is financially responsible for your injuries.

The attorneys at The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C. are ready to investigate the most complex cases of car accident liability and hold those at fault for your injuries accountable. We can pursue full compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other accident-related losses. Contact a Queens car accident lawyer at The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C. at 718-606-4931 or reach out online.