top of page
  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Whose Fault Is It If a Self-driving Car Hits a Pedestrian? - TN Laws

The advance of technology has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. One area that has got everyone excited is the possibility of having self-driving cars on the road today. With Tesla and other big tech companies leading the way, a future filled with autonomous cars seems to be just around the corner.

However, this also raises many questions regarding the law that governs drivers, cars, and road accidents. In particular, many people are asking "Whose fault is it if a self-driving car hits a pedestrian?" In normal circumstances, the at-fault driver is the one to blame for causing the accident, but when the car in question is driving itself, determining liability becomes a complicated task.

Luckily, there are some law firms, such as Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, that have kept up with the latest developments in the autonomous vehicle industry and are ready to fight for the victims of self-driving vehicles.

A Self-driving Vehicle Is Not "Driverless"

A Self-driving Vehicle Is Not "Driverless"

Despite what self-driving car companies would have the public believe, self-driving cars are not always completely autonomous vehicles. That is to say, there is likely to be a bit of human intervention with most automated driving systems.

To make it easier to understand, self-driving cars are classified into various levels depending on the complexity and abilities of the automated driving system being used. The following are some of the different levels that victims need to know:

Level 1 - This type of car has no automation at all, meaning the driver does everything.

Level 2 - The car provides minimal assistance to the driver, such as power steering or ABS braking.

Level 3 - The vehicle operates without the driver's input, with the driver standing by to intervene when needed.

Level 4 - Under certain conditions, the car can operate autonomously without driver assistance.

Level 5 - This fully autonomous vehicle will operate without a human driver present, sometimes without a steering wheel or pedals.

Considering these many different levels of autonomous vehicle capabilities, an experienced Nashville pedestrian injury attorney will first have to determine what kind of autonomous vehicle has caused the car accident before determining fault.

Who Is to Blame for a Self-driving Car Accident?

After determining that self-driving cars are rarely 100% autonomous vehicles, it is clear that when a car accident occurs, someone has to be at fault.

Depending on how the accident happened and the level of driving automation the vehicle has, one of the following parties may be to blame for the accident involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian:

The Human Driver

Unless the accident involved completely driverless cars, autonomous vehicle crashes are likely to have some kind of human error involved. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions like What are the most common causes of pedestrian accidents?

With Level 3 driving automation, for example, the driver has to be ready to intervene if something goes wrong. The fact that a pedestrian was injured means the driver did not intervene as they were meant to, which puts them at fault for the accident.

The Vehicle Manufacturer

The self-driving car accident may have been caused by a malfunction with the car itself. If that is the case, it will be similar to an injury that has been caused by a product defect. Here, the vehicle manufacturer will be to blame for self-driving car accidents, and it can be treated as a product liability case.

In some cases, it might only be a single malfunctioning part that caused the accident, such as the braking or steering system, in which case victims can seek compensation from the manufacturer of that specific part.

The Technology Designer

Advanced self-driving cars, such as Tesla vehicles, have a lot more sensors and software that will not be found on regular vehicles.

If something goes wrong with the software or the sensors, it will be the software developers who may be held responsible for the self-driving car accident.

Autonomous cars are still a long way from being able to react to unexpected events, such as a dog running into the road. As such, this lag in technology may be behind the car accident.

A Third Party

It is not always the case that the self-driving car is to blame for the accident. After all, the autonomous vehicle is sharing the road with other drivers who are prone to making errors of judgment. Therefore, the car accident liability may lie on the shoulders of a third party.

Damages From Self-driving Car Accidents Involving Pedestrians

Damages From Self-driving Car Accidents Involving Pedestrians

As long as the at-fault party has been identified, the victims of the self-driving car accident can receive damages that will cover any of the following:

Economic Damages

These are the easiest damages to quantify because they only require the receipts from any medical bills the victim had to pay as a result of the injuries they sustained such as bulging disc from car accident. Economic damages also cover other losses, such as lost wages and property damages.

Non-economic Damages

There are also non-economic damages that need to be considered. These types of damages are a lot more difficult to quantify, and the final amount may depend heavily on the victim's attorney's ability to negotiate. The final decision regarding the amount that should be awarded for non-economic damages will be made by the judge.

Some common non-economic damages that may be awarded in self-driving car accidents are:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Loss of pension

  • Reduced quality of life

  • Loss of insurance

  • Loss of companionship

  • Emotional trauma

  • Funeral and burial expenses

  • Psychological distress

Victims Injured by Autonomous Vehicles Are Entitled to Fair Compensation

Self-driving crashes involving autonomous motor vehicles and pedestrians can be complicated when it comes to determining who the at-fault party is, especially when dealing with vehicles that have high driving automation.

However, between the car manufacturers, automotive engineers, software developers, and the human drivers, a good lawyer will be able to determine who is liable for the accident.

Victims of accidents involving a driverless vehicle can contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, and ask for a free case evaluation.


bottom of page