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Understanding the Laws & Frameworks for Self-Drive Car Crashes

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Filed under Automotive, Editorial


Self-driving cars may not yet be commonplace, but there are currently over 1,400 cars that use autonomous technologies on U.S. roads and industry experts predict that autonomous vehicles are expected to account for approximately 12% of car registrations by the year 2030.

The increase in the use of autonomous vehicle technologies like advanced driver-assistance systems means there’s an incremental shift happening with regard to laws and frameworks, especially with regard to liability for self-drive car crashes.

Liability Laws in Different Countries

At present, the laws and frameworks concerning self-driving cars differ from one country to another. And some countries have not yet introduced legal frameworks for things like self-driving car liability.

The first country to regulate automated driving within a legal framework was Germany, in 2017.

With regard to liability for self-drive car crashes, the legal situation is still a little unclear. But in Germany, and some other countries, drivers are deemed responsible for driving and must continually monitor the self-driving car that they’re driving in order to intervene in hazardous situations.

However, manufacturers can also be liable for damage that is caused under product and manufacturer liability laws.

Britain, in 2018, passed a similar act concerning the liability of autonomous cars, and France followed suit in 2021, although the specifics of those liability laws and frameworks do differ slightly from Germany’s laws. 

Imposing Liability

Just like standard vehicles, autonomous cars currently have the potential to be dangerous and cause accidents. If you’re injured in a collision that involves a self-drive car, you should contact a law firm like Clearwater car accident lawyers, who are known for specializing in car accidents. 

Seeing as the laws and frameworks for self-drive car crashes are in their infancy and differ from one state and country to another, it’s crucial that you seek advice from an experienced lawyer who knows how to navigate legal complexities.

Your attorney can then determine which party is responsible and help you to claim the compensation you deserve.

In the U.S. and other countries, when a driver is involved in a car crash that involves an autonomous vehicle, he or she has four main legal options to potentially pursue when the crash is caused by a self-drive car.

Liability of the Vehicle’s Operator

The operator of a self-drive car that causes a crash is defined differently in legal terms in the U.S. depending on the state.

For instance, in Nevada and Florida, the operator of a self-drive car is defined as someone who causes the engagement of the autonomous technology regardless of whether that operator is physically inside the car. 

Though, in California, the operator is legally defined as the person who is seated in the car’s driver’s seat. To determine who is the operator and, therefore, who is to blame for an accident, the level of autonomy needs to be determined.

For example, if the autonomous technology enables the passenger to cede full control of the car, the passenger will likely not be responsible for a crash. Instead, the technology itself will be to blame.

Liability of the Car Manufacturer

The manufacturer of an autonomous vehicle that causes a car crash could be liable for the accident. But the plaintiff will need to determine whether the manufacturer played a role in installing the autonomous technology into the car.

Though, in some states, like Florida, the product liability for manufacturers has been limited.

Liability of the Car Company

The company that created a finished self-drive car could be held liable for a car crash. For instance, Volvo has pledged to take full responsibility for crashes that are caused by its vehicles’ self-driving technology. 

Liability of the Company that Created the Autonomous Technology 

Sometimes, the company that created the autonomous technology used in self-driving cars could be held liable for crashes.


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