Sacramento Autonomous Vehicle Accident Attorney

Autonomous vehicles or “self-driving” cars have arrived and the legal issues surrounding liability for accidents involving these futuristic vehicles remain murky in many parts of the country. As Sacramento residents start to see more self-driving cars on the road, it’s important to know what to do after an accident involving a self-driving car and how to determine liability.

The Sacramento autonomous vehicle accident attorneys at Rosenthal Law understand how complicated self-driving car accident cases can be. Our firm has more than 25 years of experience handling civil lawsuits for clients in the Sacramento area and we have significant resources at our disposal to ensure we provide the best representation possible for every client, every time. Although autonomous cars are still a rare sight on California roads, these vehicles and other vehicles with self-driving features are becoming more popular across the country. When an autonomous vehicle hits another car or pedestrian, injured victims should know their rights and options for recovery.

Contact our Sacramento autonomous vehicle accident lawyers at Rosenthal Law to schedule your free case consultation today.

Common Causes of Self-Driving Car Accidents

Accidents involving self-driving vehicles can occur in a wide range of ways, both due to the fault of the self-driving vehicle features or the fault of a driver. A driver of the autonomous vehicle could be at fault if they fail to take over driving activities when a hazard arises, but, just like any other type of vehicle accident on the California roadway, other drivers could be at fault as well.

Self-driving cars get into vehicle accidents in much the same way that other vehicle accidents occur. Fault could be laid on multiple parties, and the usual causes are not uncommon, including speeding, failing to yield the right of way, impaired driving, distracted driving, and more.

Self-driving vehicles, because they are only allowed in testing right now, are not as likely to become involved in accidents as traditional autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles, depending on their level of autonomy, could lead to accidents in a variety of ways, including software failure or sensor failure.

One issue that is becoming more well-known is “warning fatigue.” Driver assistance technology inside these vehicles typically issue warnings to drivers if they need to intervene. However, if too many warnings are issued, or if a driver gets used to the warnings, they may begin to ignore them. Ignoring a warning signal from an autonomous or self-driving vehicle could lead to major accidents on the roadway.

Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident?

Many potential parties may share liability for an autonomous car accident. In the majority of cases, the operator of the vehicle will be liable if there was any way he or she could have prevented the accident. Most self-driving cars require a driver in the driver’s seat who can take over manual control of the vehicle if needed.

There is an expectation for a self-driving car operator to pay close attention to road conditions and assume control of the vehicle as required. Until autonomous vehicles are fully autonomous and no longer require human drivers, drivers of self-driving cars should expect to absorb some measure of liability for any accidents their vehicles cause.

In some cases, a vehicle manufacturer may face liability if a defect in the autonomous vehicle caused an accident. An error with the car’s software or physical defect may prevent the autonomous driving system from functioning correctly, causing an accident. In these cases, victims and their product liability lawyers would pursue product liability claims against the manufacturer. In other cases, the testing company responsible for quality assurance may face liability as well for ineffective or incomplete testing methods.

Why is gathering evidence so crucial in determining liability of an autonomous vehicle accident?

Gathering Evidence After an Accident With a Self-Driving Car

The process of obtaining evidence after a crash with an autonomous vehicle or self-driving car in California can be challenging. Law enforcement officials need to come to the scene of any vehicle accident that occurs involving these types of vehicles. Likely, the collision will rise to the thresholds required for reporting anyway, but even if you are unsure of that, you need to contact the police. These thresholds include any accidents involving injury or death or an accident that involves property damage of more than $1,000.

Some of the evidence used to determine liability after a self-driving vehicle accident will be gathered at the scene of the incident. This includes traditional vehicle accident evidence such as photographs taken at the scene, video surveillance footage from nearby cameras, statements from those involved, and statements from eyewitnesses. The police report will also play a role in the evidence process.

However – and this is where it gets complicated – there will likely be other types of evidence that can help determine liability, but this evidence will be harder to get. If the incident involves a true self-driving vehicle under testing laws, your attorney will likely need to subpoena the self-driving company and driver to recover information such as software data, mobile app data, vehicle black box data, and more.

Navigating the aftermath of accidents with a self-driving or autonomous vehicle will be a complex process, but an attorney can help navigate through the claims and file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary to ensure you are treated fairly. For more information regarding gathering evidence in autonomous vehicle crashes, speak with a Sacramento car accident lawyer.

What to do After an Autonomous Vehicle Accident in Sacramento?

There are various steps you can take after an accident involving an autonomous or self-driving vehicle that can improve your chances of recovering compensation for your losses. These steps include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Seeking prompt medical treatment – In the event of an accident with a self-driving vehicle, your health and well-being are of utmost importance. Seeking immediate medical care is crucial, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent, and early medical intervention can prevent complications. Immediate medical attention can also help establish a clear link between the accident with the self-driving vehicle and your injuries.
  2. Contacting law enforcement officials – Reporting the accident to law enforcement is essential, as it helps document the incident and creates an official record. This record may be valuable when pursuing a legal claim or insurance compensation. Additionally, police officers can assess the scene and gather evidence that could be useful in determining fault, which can be complex in self-driving vehicle accidents.
  3. Gathering evidence at the scene of the incident – Collecting evidence, such as photographs, witness statements, and vehicle information, is critical. Self-driving vehicle accidents may involve unique circumstances, and having as much evidence as possible can assist in determining liability.
  4. Contacting a skilled vehicle accident lawyer – Self-driving vehicle accidents often entail intricate legal and liability issues. A proficient vehicle accident lawyer specializing in autonomous vehicle incidents can navigate the complexities of these cases. Your lawyer can help you understand your rights, assess the circumstances, and guide you through the legal process. Additionally, they can advocate for your interests and pursue compensation on your behalf.
  5. Continuing all medical treatment – After seeking initial medical care, it’s essential to follow through with all recommended treatment and therapy. This not only promotes your recovery but also provides a documented record of your injuries and their impact. Consistent medical treatment can strengthen your case by demonstrating the extent of your injuries and the costs associated with your recovery. Discontinuation of medical care against the advice of a medical professional could be taken as a sign by the insurance carrier that your injuries are not as severe as initially stated, thus hampering your compensation recovery.
  6. Stay off of Social Media – We understand that it is fairly normal to post on social media about things that happen in our lives, especially something major, like a vehicle accident. However, we encourage you not to do this. The less you say online about the incident, the better. Even if the other party was at fault, anything you post online could end up being used against you either by the insurance carrier or in a courtroom.

Compensation for Autonomous Vehicle Accidents

Any type of vehicle accident can result in several kinds of economic damages, including:

  • Medical expenses. Plaintiffs can claim compensation for any and all medical costs resulting from a defendant’s negligence.
  • Lost income. If an accident forces a victim to miss work, he or she can claim the wages lost in that time as economic damages in a personal injury claim.
  • Property damage. If an autonomous vehicle destroyed or damaged the plaintiff’s personal property, the costs of replacing or repairing that property would count as economic damages in the resulting lawsuit.
  • Pain and suffering. An autonomous vehicle accident, especially one involving a pedestrian victim, will likely cause catastrophic injuries. Plaintiffs can receive compensation for the physical pain and psychological distress resulting from a defendant’s negligence.

If you were injured by a self-driving car and want to know what specific damages are available to you, a knowledgeable Sacramento autonomous vehicle accident attorney at Rosenthal Law can help.

If you have a self-driving car in California, you still need to sit behind the wheel and follow all traffic laws.

Self-Driving Car Regulations in California

California has a long history of advancing technological achievements before the rest of the nation, and autonomous vehicles are no different. This state is a hotspot of autonomous vehicle testing, which explains why this state has a comprehensive set of autonomous vehicle driving laws.

There is a special Autonomous Vehicles wing of the California DMV that is designed to establish laws, regulations, and rules surrounding self-driving vehicles in this state.

An autonomous vehicle (AV) is any vehicle that can operate without oversight or input from someone other than the person in the driver’s seat. There are varying levels of autonomy inside vehicles. In fact, most newer automobiles on the roadway have some type of autonomous features, but there are some vehicles that are completely self-driving. However, completely autonomous vehicles, ones that are fully capable of self-driving, are not available for use outside of testing in California.

Driving an autonomous vehicle in California is certainly legal, but these vehicles must have a driver behind the wheel at all times who can take over if a hazardous situation arises, and these drivers must still adhere to all traffic laws, including laws surrounding distracted driving.

Current California laws permit testing of autonomous vehicles, but following these points:

  • Fully autonomous vehicles can operate on public roadways by individuals authorized by the manufacturer, and the manufacturer must have submitted a testing application to the California DMV.
  • All autonomous test vehicles must have a driver ready to take control of the vehicle in case of software or vehicle failure.
  • Drivers must have proof of financial responsibility.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

Individuals who are harmed due to an autonomous vehicle accident have a limited amount of time to file their claims. First, please understand that insurance carriers have their own reporting deadlines that are often vague. You need to file a claim with your insurance carrier as promptly as possible so the claims process can begin. You do not need to go into much detail when you make your initial claim, but you do need to file the claim promptly.

If you need to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court, the time limit for doing so is set forth by law. The California personal injury statute of limitations requires claims to be filed within two years from the date an injury occurs. An autonomous vehicle accident victim must file their claim against the alleged negligent party and civil court within this two-year time frame, or they not be able to recover compensation for their losses.

Speak with a Sacramento Autonomous Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today

Due to the unclear nature of autonomous vehicle laws in the country, anyone injured in a self-driving vehicle accident may not know their options for legal recourse. The Sacramento injury attorneys at Rosenthal Law have decades of experience handling civil claims for clients in the Sacramento area and throughout California. We believe in aggressive representation that maximizes our clients’ recovery and we offer free case evaluations, so our clients know what to expect from pursuing their claims. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers and we can let you know how our firm can help.