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California Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyer

A woman takes her hands off the wheel in a self-driving automated car

Self-driving cars are powered by new technology that is evolving all the time. These autonomous vehicles are already everywhere and are likely to become even more popular in the future. But the technology is not yet perfect. A huge number of crashes linked to driverless cars have resulted in injuries and deaths.

Tesla’s Autopilot is the most famous example of self-driving technology, but many manufacturers are using similar systems or planning future releases.

Crashes involving driverless cars can be terrifying and devastating, often happening through no fault of the vehicle occupants. When you or a loved one suffer injuries due to a malfunctioning vehicle, you need an experienced self-driving car accident lawyer on your side.

Bisnar Chase has decades of experience dealing with car accident claims and auto defect issues of all types. We closely follow all new technological developments and will hold negligent manufacturers accountable for faulty and dangerous systems. Contact us at (800) 561-4887 or email us for a free consultation.

Driverless Car Crash Resources

What are Automated Vehicles?

Self-driving or autonomous cars can drive and react to the road and environment around them without input from a human driver. A driverless car was once just a futuristic idea seen in science fiction. But it is now becoming a regular sight on our roads, to some degree.

These high-tech vehicles use an incredible technology matrix, including cameras, sensors, and maps that update in real time.

There are different levels of automation. Below we show the full system range:

0: No automation: Full manual control for a human driver.

1: Driver assistance technology: Basic aids such as cruise control.

2: Partial automation: The vehicle can steer, accelerate, or brake on its own, but the human driver monitors the environment and can take over at any time.

3: Conditional automation: The vehicle can monitor the environment and do most driving functions, but a human driver is still required and can override.

4: High automation: The vehicle performs all driving tasks, but a human may still be required.

5: Full automation: The car acts according to programmed instructions but needs no human input or attention.

While there are a lot of different levels of an autonomous car, people will typically use these names for any vehicle from level two upward. It is automated to a degree if it is steering, accelerating, and braking mainly on its own, without help from a human driver.

Most people use the terms autonomous/driverless/self-driving/automated interchangeably. Note that the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) refers to self-driving cars as ‘automated’ rather than ‘autonomous.’ Autonomous implies self-aware artificial intelligence, while automated means the machine acts according to its programming.

Are Self-Driving Cars Available Today?

The idea of an automated car is no longer a wild vision of the future. We have had semi-automated cars on our roads for years now.

Higher-end manufacturers have long offered self-driving features as part of their premium packages. These features allow cars to parallel park themselves, maintain gap control, course correct and steer the vehicle within a lane, and much more.

It is no longer a feature that is unique to top-tier brands. All manufacturers now offer these features. In recent years, Tesla has made a giant leap forward with its controversial Autopilot system. But we can also expect further progress in self-driving car technology in the coming years.

Google, Tesla, and other technology brands have been testing vehicles that operate with no one in the car. With technological advancements, we expect to see new laws introduced by legislators to ensure automated vehicles are safe.

Self-Driving Car Accidents

An automated car relies on sensors and cameras to read the road and monitor its surroundings. This technology allows the vehicle to recognize and adapt to its surroundings.

For example, it can read the lines on a road to stay on course, calculate safe speeds based on the cars around it, brake when needed, and follow a route based on its internal GPS. It can do this without a human driver putting a hand on the steering wheel.

But no technology is infallible. Dangers exist when these systems fail. Examples of defects in automated vehicles include:

  • Sudden unexpected acceleration and uncontrollable speeding.

  • Failing to brake or braking without warning or reason.

  • Changing lanes when it is unsafe to do so.

  • Failing to stop at red lights or stop signs.

  • Hitting other cars and pedestrians.

Fast-moving vehicles fill our roads and can do significant damage when they are involved in a collision. There is no margin for error. And we know from experience that self-driving cars are not yet capable of error-free driving.

If you are involved in an accident caused by Autopilot, or other automated features, you should contact an attorney at Bisnar Chase for a free consultation. Our team has decades of experience and a top track record in winning cases against negligent auto manufacturers.

Automated Vehicle Crash Statistics

Recent statistics show that a significant number of crashes do occur involving self-driving vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collected data on these car accidents through 2021 and 2022. The safety watchdogs produced a report based on a 10-month period ending in May 2022. It showed:

  • Nearly 400 crashes occurred in the U.S. involving level 2 or above automated features.

  • The majority of reports came from Tesla, with 273 crashes.

  • Honda was second with 90 reported accidents, followed by Subaru (10), Ford (5), Toyota (4), and BMW (3).

  • 125 reports came from California – the highest of any state by a wide margin.

  • The reported incidents resulted in six fatalities, five severe injuries, and further minor injuries.

This report features stats that vehicle manufacturers submitted. As such, it is limited. Details from a lot of the collisions are unknown, and the actual number of accidents is probably much higher.

Examples of Crashes Involving Automated Vehicles

We know from the NHTSA statistics that crashes involving self-driving cars happen frequently. The sheer number of dangerous instances is frightening. Some examples of serious incidents include:

Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash

A Florida man was behind the wheel of his Tesla Model S when he was involved in a fatal crash in 2019. The Tesla was operating on Autopilot when the driver dropped his phone. He bent down to look for it, trusting the car to continue. The Autopilot failed to recognize a stop sign and smashed into a parked car, killing a student inside.

Pedestrian Killed in Driverless Uber Test

A pedestrian named Elaine Herzberg, aged 49 was struck and killed while crossing the road in 2018. The car was an Uber operating in automated mode with a backup driver behind the wheel. Prosecutors decided Uber was not responsible but charged the driver with criminal homicide. It was the first pedestrian death caused by an automated vehicle, but it would not be the last.

Google’s Self-Driving Car Causes Accident in Test Drive

Tech giant Google was testing its self-driving car prototype in 2016 when the vehicle veered in front of a bus, causing a minor collision. It was the first instance of this Google technology failing and causing an accident. The crash happened in California.

Lawsuit Filed After Two Fatalities on California Freeway

A man and his teenage son died after a Tesla on Autopilot struck their truck. The Tesla Autopilot failed to recognize the other car changing lanes. The surviving family members of the victims filed a lawsuit against Tesla.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

The liable party is the person or organization to blame for an accident. In the case of accidents involving self-driving cars, liability can be complex.

This is emerging technology, and it is not yet clear how some incidents may be regulated. To address these uncertainties, it is necessary to set safety standards for self-driving vehicles and create laws that control them.

Elon Musk has previously stated that Tesla will take responsibility for crashes caused by Autopilot failures. But this is open to interpretation.

Despite hailing its Autopilot as the future of driving, Tesla has stressed that drivers must stay alert and ready to intervene while their car is on Autopilot.

Some might question the point of an automated system if a fully alert driver is still required to be behind the wheel. But by specifying this need, Tesla hopes to avoid liability issues when its vehicles are involved in crashes.

That has not stopped the company from facing many auto defect lawsuits.

For example, one man filed a claim after his Tesla Model S accelerated suddenly while on Autopilot. The driver said he was paying attention with his hands on the steering wheel but could not stop the vehicle from running off the road. It hit a tree and left him with catastrophic injuries.

The lawsuit called Autopilot: “A work in progress at best.”

This area of the law is still emerging. In some cases, it seems that the car’s software and automated systems have contributed to the accident, potentially making the car company liable. In other cases, the driver may have been negligent.

Whether there was a bug in the electronic system or the driver was distracted, Bisnar Chase can help. Contact our team for expert guidance and a free case review. We will examine the circumstances of your crash and hold those at fault accountable.

A Timeline of Automated Car Technology

We have been moving toward self-driving cars for far longer than many people realize.

The following is a timeline of our autonomous vehicle advances, including the development of Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Assistance – the key technology used to make Autopilot possible.

  • The early 1990s: The first preparations were made at government level to prepare for an automated road system. Limited self-driving vehicle trials were also conducted in Europe.

  • 1992: Mitsubishi introduced the first distance warning for obstacles ahead.

  • 1997: Toyota took the technology further by developing Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) on the Celsior model, sold in Japan. This system could influence throttle and downshifting.

  • 1998: The Mercedes S-Class brought an ACC system to Europe and the United States.

  • 2000: Lane-keeping assistance systems are added to some commercial trucks.

  • 2005: Lane assistance technology became available on high-end road cars.

  • 2014: Tesla – launched in 2003 – releases its Model S sedan. The car has the hardware fitted for Autopilot use, but the software is not yet ready.

  • 2015: Tesla introduces a software update, and Autopilot is officially operational.

These are the steps that have put driverless technology on the map. But it has not been a smooth road. Contact Bisnar Chase for help if you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to any form of self-driving technology.

A History of Tesla Issues

There have been plenty of accidents involving automated driving features. Not all resulted from driverless tech faults. But there is no escaping the fact that most accident reports have involved Tesla’s Autopilot system.

Following the full launch of Autopilot in 2015, the timeline below shows a history of the potential auto defect issues encountered with Tesla’s groundbreaking technology.

2016:

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk says Autopilot is “probably better” than a human driver.

  • The first death linked to Autopilot is reported in China.

  • An update is issued to fix dangers associated with the ‘Summon’ feature.

  • A promotional video was released for Autopilot. But a class action lawsuit is launched by consumers in response, branding the footage misleading. Tesla agrees to a settlement of $5.4 million.

2017:

  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends introducing technology that monitors drivers to ensure they are paying attention while using self-driving features. Ignored by Tesla at the time, some similar features are now in place.

2018:

  • Multiple deaths linked to Autopilot.

  • Third-party devices are sold to trick steering wheel sensors into thinking the driver’s hands are on the wheel. A cease and desist is issued.

2019:

  • Tests reveal issues with lane changing and navigating parking lots.

  • NTSB criticizes the system, later claiming it makes drivers complacent and sparked an increase in accidents and deaths.

2020:

  • Consumer Reports tests Tesla’s Full Self-Driving features. It labels them: “inconsistent.”

Tesla, led by Elon Musk, has changed the game. The manufacturer has pioneered major advancements in driverless technology. But clearly, issues still exist.

While many car makers try to work out the bugs in their hi-tech driver aids, we work for those who suffer life-changing impacts caused by self-driving cars. Trust us with your case.

Tesla’s Response

Tesla has faced plenty of questions and scrutiny from watchdogs. That is to be expected given the rapid advances and associated accidents.

But the automaker has been quick to hit back.

Andrej Karpathy, the former director of artificial intelligence and Autopilot Vision at Tesla, famously said that computers don’t check their Instagram while driving. The company believes such systems will eventually guard against driver error and make roads safer.

However, the company line has always been that: “The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.”

Tesla says the driver should keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road, and be ready to intervene. This disclaimer often puts the blame back onto drivers regarding legal action.

Critics say that the term ‘self-driving car’ is misleading when drivers must remain at complete attention. They say the Autopilot system only gives drivers a false sense of security.

A Tesla driving on autopilot

Injuries Suffered in Automated Car Crashes

The types of injuries sustained in wrecks involving cars that operate themselves can vary. It will depend on all kinds of factors, such as the nature of the collision, the area of vehicle contact, and the speed at which the car is traveling.

Typical injuries include:

  • Broken bones.

  • Severe bruising and deep lacerations.

  • Head and neck trauma.

  • Traumatic brain injuries.

  • Spinal cord damage.

  • Whiplash.

  • Damage to muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

  • Internal injuries.

  • Blunt force trauma.

  • Death.

As a personal injury law firm, Bisnar Chase solely deals with cases involving bodily injuries. No matter the injury you or a loved one have suffered, we are here to help. Contact us now for support and expert representation.

While all accidents involving vehicle malfunctions are scary, we usually cannot take a self-driving car crash case if physical injuries are not involved.

How Much is Your Case Worth?

Of course, no two cases are the same when it comes to crashes involving automated cars.

We have two options for securing compensation for you. We can try to settle your claim out of court or go to trial. There are pros and cons to each option. For example, going to trial is expensive, takes longer, and a jury can be unpredictable. But a trial is sometimes the only option if the defendant refuses to meet on a fair settlement.

Many variables are in play regarding the amount of compensation you could recover. These include both economic and non-economic damages, such as:

  • Pain and suffering.

  • Medical expenses.

  • Ongoing treatment, rehabilitation, or care.

  • Lost income.

  • Compromised quality of life.

Generally, the amount of compensation you recover is linked directly to the impact that the vehicle accident and associated injuries have had on your life.

For example, if your injuries stop you from working in your chosen profession for the rest of your life, that must be accounted for.

Bisnar Chase has worked for clients with severe injuries for over four decades. We can maximize the value of your case, ensuring that you receive the compensation you deserve.

California’s Automated Vehicle Laws

Driver aids, such as steering assist, brake assist, self-parking modes, and other similar features, are completely legal in California. But the following laws may apply during a self-driving car accident case:

  • The regulations and definitions relating to autonomous vehicles are covered by California Vehicle Code 38750.

  • Auto defect precedent set in Soule v. GM Corp. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 560 shows that a manufacturer is liable when a defect causes an injury when the product is used as intended.

  • As part of using the product (automated software) as intended, a driver must use reasonable care while driving, at least for the time being, until fully automated cars hit our roads.

This technology is, of course, still emerging. Companies are testing new automated features on cars every day. The law requires them to apply for a permit from the California DMV to do so.

It is also interesting to note that officials aim to pass new laws to prevent false advertising related to self-driving cars. The move was sparked by Tesla advertising a ‘Full Self-Driving Mode.’ Politicians say this name is misleading and encourages drivers not to pay attention.

Driverless Car Accident FAQs

Legal actions surrounding self-driving vehicle accidents are complicated, but we are here to simplify things for you. We answer a few frequently asked questions below. But we are also here if you have any other queries.

There have been many accidents involving self-driving technology that have resulted in severe injuries and deaths. This technology is not inherently unsafe but can malfunction and encourage drivers not to pay attention.

Anyone injured in a crash involving a self-driving car could file a claim – if someone else’s negligence caused the incident. This could include an occupant in the automated car or another driver or pedestrian, depending on the nature of the crash. Contact us for further guidance.

Either the manufacturer or driver could be at fault. Automated driving software sometimes malfunctions and causes accidents. But drivers must also keep their full attention on the road; failing to do so would be negligence.

Once a claim is filed, the time it takes to resolve will depend on the case. Some are completed relatively quickly. Others may take longer, particularly if they go to trial. Our team will be able to give you a better estimate based on your case.

Driverless Vehicle Accidents Resulting in Wrongful Death

There have been several recorded crashes involving driverless vehicles that have caused fatalities. These are tragic cases and mean the victim cannot file a claim themselves.

However, the family of a fatal crash family can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This allows people hit by unimaginable loss to seek justice on behalf of their loved ones.

Typically, the people who can file a wrongful death claim in a car accident case include:

  • Spouses and domestic partners.

  • Children.

  • Grandchildren.

  • Other relatives such as parents and siblings.

  • Dependents of the deceased.

In this kind of case, any compensation may include:

  • Medical bills.

  • Funeral costs.

  • Loss of financial and emotional support.

  • Loss of companionship.

The matter of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated, but our team of self-driving car accident lawyers is equipped to help with your case. Contact us now.

The Future of Driverless Cars

To many people, driverless cars are still a futuristic idea. They think of them as features of sci-fi films like Demolition Man and I, Robot.

But we are well on the way to roads filled with driverless cars. While far from perfect, Tesla’s giant technological leaps have made fully automated vehicles feel like a very real possibility.

In 2021, the automated vehicle market was worth $4 billion. According to a new report by Renub Research in 2022, it is projected to spike to $186 billion in 2030.

Manufacturers are trialing new advances all the time and expect to be able to eliminate drivers entirely in a fully self-driving vehicle in the coming years.

There are roadblocks, though. Manufacturers know earning the trust of drivers will be a gradual process. They also have to convince state regulators – a tough job when some authorities make a lot of money from traffic offenses and fines.

How about the future of auto defect cases? With so many car accidents currently caused by human error, driverless technology is expected to make our roads safer eventually.

But it is worth noting that as manufacturers produce vehicles with higher levels of automation, they will face a higher level of liability. There will be no way for manufacturers to shift blame if the car is fully autonomous.

Contacting the Best Self-Driving Car Accident Attorney Near Me

At Bisnar Chase, we have dealt with countless car accident claims and have earned a national reputation for winning auto defect cases. When you suffer due to a crash involving self-driving technology – whether the liable party is the driver or the vehicle manufacturer – our team can maximize the value of your case.

We take pride in holding negligent automakers accountable and ensuring justice is done for injury victims.

Finding the right law firm is not always easy. Many firms operate throughout California, but some offer better qualities than others. At Bisnar Chase, you get superior representation with a personal touch.

  • We have a 99% success rate.

  • Our firm has won more than $750 million for accident victims.

  • We offer a free consultation and a no win no fee agreement.

  • You get quick and clear communication at all stages.

  • Top-level trial experience and success.

  • Victories in cases like yours.

Our team has the skill and experience to win any case. We have taken on the biggest car manufacturers in the world and won, and we are here to ensure you get the representation you deserve.

Contact our self-driving car accident attorneys today for a free case review. Call (800) 561-4887, or use our website to send us an email or live chat with a representative 24/7.

The Ultimate California Car Accident Guide 2024

california car accident guide cover

Click below to download The Ultimate California Car Accident Guide 2024, produced by Bisnar Chase.

California Auto Defect Lawyer

  • Automakers often negligently sell cars that have defects that can lead to injuries or death:
  • Sudden Acceleration: A car can accelerate to full speed without pressing the gas pedal and may not be able to be stopped by the brakes
  • Rollovers: Taller cars like 15-passenger vans are much more likely to roll over under dangerous driving conditions and cause injuries.
  • Roof Crush: Rollover accidents are especially dangerous when the vehicle roof is not enforced, leading to major injuries or death.
  • Ford Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Some Ford Explorer drivers have been injured after passing out while driving because of car exhaust leaking into the passenger cabin and poisoning the drivers.
  • Airbag Failure: Consumers expect their airbags to protect them in a crash, and passengers can be injured terribly if the airbag does not go off in the event of a crash.
  • Seatbelt Failure: Defective seatbelts can click into position but then release when jolted suddenly, offering no protection in a car crash.
  • Seat Back Failure: Many car seats are made cheaply and can break in the event of a rear-end accident, leading to serious injuries to the driver or a passenger behind them.
  • Tire Separation: Tire tread separation is an extremely dangerous type of defect, occurring when the grooved tread breaks away from the rest of the tire while the vehicle is moving.
  • Door Latch: A defective car door latch can either trap occupants inside a vehicle or cause the door to pop open during an accident. Both scenarios are extremely dangerous.
  • If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of an auto defect, know your rights and contact an attorney today. We may be able to get you the compensation you deserve.

Self-Driving Car Blogs

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