In a Self-Driving Car Accident? What Now?

Las Vegas Car Accident

Self-driving vehicles promise to make transportation safer by eliminating human error. Unfortunately, the self-driving revolution is still in its infancy—and serious accidents continue to happen. One quick glance at the internet shows that accidents involving self-driving vehicles happen around the country, from California to Texas to Florida. It turns out that manufacturers of these autonomous vehicles have not yet found a way to completely eliminate human contribution. And the technology involved in self-driving vehicles is not as sophisticated as some imagine.

If you are involved in a self-driving car accident— either as an occupant in the autonomous car or in a vehicle that was struck by a self-driving vehicle—you need to act fast. Compensation is possible, but you will need to fully document the wreck and then contact a seasoned Las Vegas car accident lawyer to review the circumstances.

What to Do at the Scene of the Wreck

The moments following a car accident are disorientating, to say the least. One second you are driving down the road or through an intersection—the next, your face is pressed to an airbag as you try to ignore the pain in your body. You might never have even seen the vehicle which slammed into you.

Nevertheless, the steps an accident victim takes at the scene of the wreck can make or break a case. It’s that simple. There is so much helpful evidence at the scene of the accident, and accident victims need to collect as much of it as possible. Follow these steps:

  • Get medical attention to those who need it. This should always be the first order of business. Call emergency services to have an ambulance brought to the scene. As always, if you were seriously injured in a car accident, ask someone to call an ambulance for you.
  • Share insurance information with the other driver. This could be the driver of the autonomous vehicle or if you were in that car, the driver of another vehicle involved in the wreck. Nevada law requires that they share this information, so ask for it, including information about the driver (name, address, license number). Also share your own information.
  • Take pictures of all vehicles involved. These pictures serve several purposes. You’ll get the license plate number in the picture, which is helpful. You should also document how damaged the vehicles are in the minutes following the wreck. Zoom in if needed to show any dings, scrapes, or scratches. Take several pictures of all sides of every vehicle involved, including your own.
  • Take photos of the debris field. High-speed collisions can spread a debris field around the scene. Photographic evidence plays a key role in reconstructing the accident.
  • File a Las Vegas police report. Nevada law also requires that you notify the police of the accident. An officer should pull up and create an accident report, which will contain important information.
  • Identify witnesses. These witnesses could be someone on the sidewalk or an occupant in a vehicle on the road who saw the collision. Get names and contact information.

Begin Documenting Your Losses

Remember to go to the hospital following any collision. Even a minor accident can cause serious injuries, such a traumatic brain injury or back injury, and prompt medical care is vital to a full recovery.

To help with making a claim for compensation, hold onto all medical bills, medical records, and proof of lost income. If your car needs repairs, keep a copy of the estimate or the final bill. We have found that this documentary evidence is necessary to accurately value a claim.

Analyze Fault with a Seasoned Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyer

Before you can make a claim for compensation, you need to identify who is to blame for the wreck. This is called assigning fault. But the process isn’t always easy when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, these vehicles are not 100% safe or 100% foolproof. Media reports often exaggerate the sophistication of the car’s technology. You might think, “I must be at fault because the car’s computer wouldn’t make an error”—which is 100% wrong. Self-driving vehicles have many vulnerabilities, and one of them might have been the root cause of the collision.

Here are a few vulnerabilities:

  • Weather. Self-driving vehicles rely on sensors to identify objects in their path, but these sensors might not work reliably in poor weather. Heavy rain or fog could impede the ability of sensors to pick up on objects, such as another vehicle making a turn or stopping at a light.
  • Limitations on decision-making. Self-driving vehicles need to make decisions about how to drive the vehicle, much like a person would. But computers cannot yet process all the information that the human brain can, and they can make poor decisions. For example, several Tesla vehicles have crashed into police or other emergency vehicles.
  • Reliance on human inputs. Not all self-driving vehicles are 100% autonomous. Some still require that the driver make inputs or, in certain situations, take over control of the vehicle. The driver might have been distracted or nodding off in the moments leading up to the wreck. In fact, this is a key danger of self-driving vehicles—they create incentives for drivers to zone out.

Hacking. Just as software in your computer can be hacked, so can the software that runs the autonomous vehicle. In 2015, two individuals showed a journalist how they could hack a car 10 miles away, shutting off its engine and messing with its air conditioning. Although manufacturers responded by recalling the model, hacking remains an ever-present threat.

Preserving Important Computer Information

Some critical information isn’t immediately available at the scene of the wreck. Specifically, information stored on the self-driving vehicle’s data logs. Often, this information holds the key for assigning fault. The logs might show that its driver made some input that led to the wreck, or it could show the computer unable to reconcile conflicting information.

Hiring an attorney is critical here. The risk you want to avoid is having the car’s owner “wipe” or erase this information. Our lawyers can preserve it by sending a letter to the self-driving vehicle’s owner, but we need to act fast.

Negotiating a Settlement

Most settlements are paid by an insurance policy. But whose policy should pay?

This is why assigning fault is so critical. The following parties could be at fault, and you would file an accident claim with their insurer:

  • The driver of the autonomous vehicle
  • The manufacturer of the autonomous vehicle
  • The owner of the autonomous vehicle, such as a rental or taxi company
  • The driver of another vehicle on the road

 Here are some common scenarios:

You were injured as an occupant in the self-driving vehicle. It might be that another driver on the road is to blame, in which case you can make a claim on their liability policy. But it might be the case that the driverless car malfunctions. If so, you could possibly make a claim against the manufacturer or, if you rented the vehicle, the rental company. Businesses often have large insurance policies, so suing one is ideal if the facts warrant it.

You were struck by a self-driving vehicle. You could be the occupant of another car on the road or a pedestrian. You can make an insurance claim against any entity responsible for the wreck. This could be the driver of the autonomous vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle’s owner, or some combination of these.

An attorney experienced in these types of wrecks knows how to analyze the facts to sue the correct party. Any delay could hurt your claim.

Contact Ladah Law Today for a Free Consultation

We are an established Las Vegas law firm committed to helping those injured in wrecks. Get in touch with us by phone at (702) 252-0055 or reach out to us online for a free, no obligation initial consultation.