Self-driving cars are not commonplace at this juncture in time. Nonetheless, the number of self-driving cars on U.S. roadways is beginning to increase. As the number of self-driving cars on roadways grows, accidents involving these vehicles will become more common as well. There will likely be an increase in the number of self-driving cars that cause fatal accidents.
If you have lost a family member in an accident involving a self-driving car, you need to understand your legal rights and appreciate the necessity of retaining the services of skilled, experienced wrongful death lawyer.
Determining Liability in a Self-Driving Car Accident Case
A primary element of a wrongful death case is ascertaining who is responsible for the accident. When it comes to a self-driving car fatal accident, a number of parties may be responsible for the event.
Examples of parties who may be held responsible legally for a self-driving accident include the designer of the vehicle. Another responsible party may be the manufacturer of the car. A parts manufacturer may also be deemed responsible for causing a self-driving vehicle accident if a specific part of the car malfunctioned.
The owner of the self-driving car may be deemed responsible for an accident, as might the individual in the “driver’s seat” in the vehicle. Although the vehicle is autonomous, these cars include override systems that can be activated, when necessary, by an individual positioned in what would traditionally be the driver’s seat.
The Elements of Establishing Legal Liability in a Wrongful Death Case
There are four primary elements underpinning a successful wrongful death claim, including one involving a self-driving car. First, a duty of care must exist. In this case, the operator of a self-driving vehicle must operate it in a reasonably safe manner.
Second, the duty of care must be breached. Running a red light in a self-driving car would represent a breach of the duty of care. Third, the conduct must be the actual and legal cause of the accident. Finally, a person pursuing a claim involving a self-driving car must sustain actual injuries. In the alternative, a death must have occurred as a result of the accident.
Compensation in a Self-Driving Car Wrongful Death Accident
The compensation potentially awarded in a wrongful death case arising from an accident involving an autonomous car depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident. The relationship between the deceased individual and a family member making a wrongful death claim also comes into play.
Examples of losses and damages that are compensable in a wrongful death case can include final medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, property damage, mental anguish and emotional distress, and lost income or financial support.
In some cases, punitive or exemplary damages may be awarded in a wrongful death case. These represent additional compensation awarded in a wrongful death case. Punitive or exemplary damages are awarded if the conduct of the party causing an accident is determined to be particularly egregious or reckless.
Understanding that very few accidents occur involving self-driving cars at this juncture in time, personal injury lawyer Milwaukee WI trusts work more frequently with clients who have sustained injuries in accident involving traditional motor vehicles. The same holds true for wrongful death cases.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hickey & Turim, S.C. for their insight into car accident and personal injury practice.