TMCnet Feature
January 12, 2021

When a Self-Driving Car Malfunctions and Causes Death



Self-driving cars have slowly become a reality. The overall landscape is still evolving and the cars are slowly making their way to full-scale availability.

With a new and emerging technology comes new legal concerns and questions. If a self-driving car were to malfunction and cause death, whose fault is it? That is a question that is currently being asked.

Emerging technology

Self-driving cars have been on the road now for the past few years. They have been operating in major cities in North America like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. As an emerging technology, these cars are not fully available for retail purchase and are currently going through pilot programs to test and improve the technology.



While the technology may be new, it has already caused a death when Elaine Herzberg was struck and killed by a self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018. Her death led to the issue of who is to be held responsible for these types of accidents.

Human element

The technology behind self-driving cars has not reached the point where a driver is not present in the car. In cases where a malfunctioning self-driving car causes death, the car’s driver can be held liable. In case of an emergency, the human driver is set to take over for the vehicle if the system cannot handle driving the car by itself.

The human driver could have seen the pedestrian coming and could have avoided the accident altogether. If the driver could have prevented the accident but did not, the driver can be at fault in the situation.

If you ever get involved in a car accident involving a self-driving car, it is recommended that you seek the help of an attorney. Sutliff & Stout Injury & Accident Law Firm specializes in such cases and to get the help of a car accident lawyer in Houston, Texas, consult them any time of the day.

While self-driving cars may be a new trend, their Board-Certified lawyers are armed with the expertise to help you win your case. They have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for car injury victims, and they will make sure you get the proper compensation you deserve.

Manufacturer liability

Since self-driving cars are mainly powered by the technology behind them, manufacturers can be held liable for the accident. If the cars themselves or the system it uses is proven to be faulty or malfunctioning, the makers of the self-driving cars can be at fault in the situation.

Some places have laws in place that designate the automated driving system to be the driver of a self-driving car. These laws require manufacturers of self-driving vehicles to assume fault for each incident in which the automated driving system is at fault. This will allow you to hold the car manufacturers accountable for the accident if you can prove fault.

Evidence can best determine who is liable

The newness of the technology means that there is no easy way or precedent to determine who is at fault. Therefore, the best way to resolve the issue is with the help of evidence. The police on the scene will collect evidence and do their own investigation into the matter. You can also involve your lawyers in this to assist you in collecting evidence.

In the case of Elaine Herzberg, her family’s lawyers were able to gather evidence from the car’s event data recorder to determine fault on the driver and Uber. The family eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.



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