In the last few months, there have been a number of incidents involving Tesla’s autopilot system that have led to injuries and even one death of a driver. In May, a man who was driving on a Florida highway was allegedly killed when the car went to change lanes but failed to detect the tractor-trailer next to it. It drove the vehicle right under the truck, killing the driver. The family of the driver has hired a personal injury attorney to investigate the incident.
As autopilot capabilities become more common on the road, it is important to consider an important question regarding liability. Specifically, who is accountable in the event of an accident?
Typically, when the careless conduct of a driver is responsible for causing an accident, that driver can be liable for being negligent. Negligence is a failure to exercise reasonable care behind the wheel. Reasonable care is defined as how a prudent driver would act under the same or similar circumstances. Thus, what is considered reasonable will vary depending on the specific situation. In order to establish negligence, you must show that the defendant owed you a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty of care, the defendant’s breach was a direct cause of your harm, and you suffered damages.
But what happens when a car is on autopilot, and technically there is no “driver?” One entity that could potentially be liable is the manufacturer of the car. For example, in the Florida case mentioned above, it could be argued that the autopilot feature failed to work properly if the vehicle did not recognize that a tractor-trailer was next to it before changing lanes, since the autopilot feature is intended to be able to detect exactly this type of activity on the road. As a result, the autopilot feature’s defect was the ultimate cause of the man’s death.
A failure to warn users of the risks associated with the autopilot program could also form the basis of a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. What if, however, the driver was warned properly? The Tesla autopilot system is very new. The company says it informs drivers to keep both hands on the wheel, even if the self-driving feature is on. If the driver failed to do that, it might be appropriate to apportion some of the blame to the driver.
Once a plaintiff establishes a case successfully, he or she may be able to seek economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical costs, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, property damage, and other losses incurred by the plaintiff. Non-economic damages include intangible losses, such as emotional distress, disfigurement, and pain and suffering.
If you own a Tesla or other car and were involved in a crash while the autopilot system was on, you may be able to seek damages. As electric cars become more and more popular, kinks in the new technology become more evident. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami car accident attorneys can take the time to assess the merits of your case and determine the strength of your claims. We proudly represent clients from across South Florida. To learn more, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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