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Who Is Liable in a Semi-Autonomous Car Accident?

Driverless cars once sounded like science fiction. Today, so-called self-driving vehicles are becoming more of a reality. Manufacturers and businesses are experimenting with this technology for many purposes, including the transportation of goods, services, and even people. As of 2021, more than 80 brands have begun to test self-driving vehicles.

Yet what happens if you get hurt after being involved in a car accident that involves a semi-autonomous vehicle? Who is liable? The answer may not always seem obvious. However, courts, legislators, and car accident lawyers are paving the way to help people who have been injured in accidents understand and exercise their rights.

How Do Semi-Autonomous Vehicles Work?

When you picture a semi-autonomous vehicle, you might imagine a vehicle that drives on its own without any guidance. That is not quite true, which is the reason for the term semi-autonomous instead of autonomous. Sometimes, an offsite safety driver is working behind the scenes to monitor the decisions of the vehicle’s self-driving software. The safety driver evaluates everything from a screen. Other times, a driver might be in the vehicle but allowing the electronic system to do all the work. The idea is that the human can serve as a backup.

This sounds fair and reasonable in theory. In real life, human backups and safety drivers have not always been reliable.

For example, one car manufacturer offers what it calls Autopilot in some of its vehicles. The Autopilot feature is supposed to act somewhat like an all-inclusive cruise control. In other words, the driver is still supposed to be watching the road. Regrettably, some drivers have chosen to allow Autopilot to do all the work while they do something else even though they are behind the wheel or in the vehicle.

Offsite safety drivers who are supposed to monitor vehicles from remote locations can act irresponsibly as well. One case currently working its way through the court system involves an accident that happened when a semi-autonomous rideshare vehicle crashed. Allegedly, the safety driver who was supposed to focus attention on the vehicle’s reactions was distracted and watching an entertainment program. This left the people in the rideshare at greater risk than they assumed, according to allegations against the safety driver.

What Ways Can Fault Be Determined in Semi-Autonomous Car Accidents?

You can see how complicated the process of determining fault can be when dealing with a semi-autonomous car accident. Over the past few years, car accident lawyers have named many different parties in cases, including the car manufacturer, the inventor of the technology, and the behind-the-scenes safety driver. Even a parts manufacturer, such as the company that created the self-guiding system, could be named in a lawsuit.

Therefore, what is the best way to determine the negligent party or parties? A good rule is to dissect the accident from beginning to end. Understanding what happened can help pinpoint liability.

Can I Win a Semi-Autonomous Accident Case in New Jersey if I Share the Fault?

Not all accidents are 100 percent the fault of one driver or entity. What happens if you get into a serious accident with a semi-autonomous vehicle but were partly responsible for the crash? In this situation, you should know more about New Jersey’s contributory negligence laws.

Contributory negligence allows fault to be divided appropriately between the plaintiff and defendant. As long as you are not more than half responsible for causing the accident, you could be awarded damages. Your damages would simply be modified to reflect your percentage of fault.

Here is how New Jersey’s contributory negligence laws could work in a semi-autonomous accident: You are going faster than the speed limit on a highway. A semi-autonomous vehicle sideswipes your car while changing lanes. This forces your car off the road, and you suffer significant injuries. You claim that the semi-autonomous driver was at fault. The court agrees but says you were at fault for going too fast. Your fault is set at 40 percent, and you are awarded damages of $100,000. Since you shared 40 percent fault, your damages would be reduced by 40 percent and you would receive $60,000 instead.

Not all states have contributory negligence laws in place. New Jersey’s laws assist you in being able to receive damages even if you contributed to the accident.

What Should I Do after Being Involved in a Semi-Autonomous Accident?

Getting into any accident can be unsettling. Getting into an accident with a self-autonomous vehicle can be extra strange, particularly if the vehicle does not have a driver inside. Nevertheless, follow a few typical rules just as you would after getting into any type of accident.

  • Make sure you call 911 immediately to report the incident to the local authorities and prompt emergency medical help if you or someone else is hurt.

  • Move your vehicle to the safest possible location unless it would be hazardous to do so.

  • Get medical attention onsite or as soon as you can, even if you think you are okay.

  • Exchange pertinent information with the safety driver of the semi-autonomous vehicle, if one is available.

  • Document the scene with photos, videos, and even notes so you can recall the incident later.

  • Describe what happened to the authorities when they arrive, but try not to assign blame.

  • Contact your insurance company to let them know what happened, but do not agree to give any formal statements about the accident until you speak with a lawyer.

  • Keep detailed records of all bills, receipts, and other items to put a figure behind the economic damages associated with your accident.

  • Get in touch with a local car accident lawyer who practices law in the state where you had your accident.

Because laws and cases involving semi-autonomous vehicle crashes are just beginning to evolve, maintain a high level of caution before accepting any settlement offers from insurance companies or third parties. Speaking with a car accident lawyer during a free consultation does not obligate you to hire the attorney. It gives you the opportunity to learn more about the choices available to you.

Highland Park Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Help Clients Recover from a Semi-Autonomous Crash

If you were injured after being in an accident with a semi-autonomous vehicle, reach out to the Highland Park car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr. Our experienced legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and fight to recover full and fair compensation for your damages. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-537-8570 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.

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