Kendall Law Firm Blog

Who’s Liable When a Self-driving Truck Causes a Crash?




  |  posted by Kendall Law Firm   |   Truck Accidents

truck on the road

Self-driving trucks may seem like futuristic technology, but in some ways, the future is nearer at hand than you may think. Technology companies and vehicle manufacturers are developing autonomous trucks, and Florida recently passed a law allowing self-driving vehicles on highways. Virginia law currently permits the testing of vehicles with driving automation on public roads. Many trucks are already equipped with certain types of automated features such as cruise control, collision mitigation, lane-keeping, and other systems that collectively are referred to as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

With all of the advanced technology in trucks, you may wonder who is liable when a self-driving truck causes an accident? That’s a fair question. Liability law is complex and will evolve in this area as self-driving vehicles become more common on the roads. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a self-driving truck or any type of commercial truck, talk to a Virginia truck accident attorney at Kendall Law Firm as soon as possible. Harrisonburg injury attorney David Kendall is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and has more than 30 years of legal experience. Kendall Law Firm has helped accident victims recover millions in compensation for their injuries.

Don’t delay seeking experienced legal counsel if you have been injured in an accident caused by a truck. For a free consultation with a knowledgeable Harrisonburg truck accident attorney, visit our contact page, or talk to us via live chat.

Why Do Self-Driving Trucks Have Accidents?

Human error is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. By automating many driver tasks, the theory is that many driver errors can be avoided. But for automated systems to prevent accidents, that will require technology to work perfectly and not malfunction. There are certain dangers involved with autonomous vehicles on the roads.

Most self-driving trucks currently on the road are not completely autonomous because they have a human driver who is supposed to take control in the event of an emergency. If the driver in a self-driving truck is distracted, fatigued, intoxicated, or impaired in some other way, the driver may not be able to react in time to avoid an accident.

Second, self-driving vehicles are only as safe as the programming that governs them. If there’s a software glitch or the truck’s software fails to recognize a traffic hazard, an accident may result. An example of this occurred in Arizona when a self-driving Uber failed to recognize a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The Uber vehicle struck and fatally injured the pedestrian. It shows how mistakes in a self-driving vehicle’s software can have serious consequences.trucks running on the road

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that automated systems may prevent only about a third of all crashes and about two-thirds of accidents would still occur with self-driving vehicles unless the vehicles are programmed to avoid certain decision-making and performance errors. It will be critically important that the designers of self-driving vehicles prioritize safety over rider preferences if the vehicles are to fulfill their promise to be safer than human drivers, the researchers said.

Types of Self-Driving Truck Accidents

There are a few common types of self-driving truck accidents. These include:

  • Head-on collisions – If a self-driving trucks’ automated lane-keeping system malfunctions, or if the vehicle doesn’t recognize an oncoming hazard in its path, a head-on crash may occur. Head-on collisions often result in extreme injuries.
  • Rear-end collisions – Large trucks with forward collision warning systems and automatic braking are less likely to cause rear-end accidents, according to recent research. But if a self-driving truck’s collision detection system isn’t working correctly, it may not stop in time to avoid crashing into another vehicle in front of it, and the technology or truck manufacturer may be liable for the accident. Rear-end accidents can lead to severe injuries like whiplash, neck and back injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
  • Jackknife accidents – A self-driving truck may cause a jackknife accident if it has to stop suddenly and the trailer ends up swinging wide as a result. The swinging trailer will hit anything in its path, including other motor vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Risks of Self-Driving Trucks

There are still many risks involved with self-driving trucks. Some of those risks are:

  • Human error – For now, autonomous trucks still require human drivers as a backup safety measure, and these drivers are expected to remain alert in the event that they need to take control of the vehicle. If the human driver isn’t paying close enough attention, the driver may fail to help avoid a crash.
  • Mechanical defects – If there’s a mechanical issue with a self-driving truck such as a tire blowout or brake failure, that could lead to an accident.
  • Hacking – Like any software system, the technology that powers autonomous trucks is vulnerable to hacking if the truck’s designers don’t provide sufficient protection. If a hacker gains access to a self-driving trucks’ software, they could wreak all kinds of havoc.

Who Is Liable for a Crash with a Self-Driving Truck?

The law around self-driving trucks and liability for accidents is still evolving. Some of the parties who could potentially be held liable for a crash involving a self-driving truck.

Parties who could be held liable for a self-driving truck crash are:

  • The driver – If the human driver was negligent in some way, the truck driver could be held liable for the accident.
  • The owner of the truck – If there’s an issue with the self-driving truck’s mechanical components, or if the trucking company failed to train and monitor the truck driver, the trucking company could bself driving truckse liable for your injuries.
  • The manufacturer of the truck – Mechanical defects in a self-driving truck may be the fault of the manufacturer, in which case the manufacturer could be liable for any injuries from a crash.
  • The designer of the truck’s software – If the truck’s software malfunctions, the company that developed the software may be responsible for the injuries.

What Legal Protection Exists for Those Involved in Self-Driving Truck Crashes?

If you’re involved in an accident with a commercial truck, an experienced Virginia truck accident lawyer at Kendall Law Firm can help you identify who should be held accountable for your injuries.

A knowledgeable lawyer can investigate the crash, determine who is legally liable, then help you pursue fair compensation through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today for Help!

The Harrisonburg truck accident attorneys at the Kendall Law Firm are here to answer your questions about truck crashes and help you recover fair compensation for your injuries. You can get a free case review by calling our Harrisonburg office, filling out our contact form, or speaking with us via live chat.

Call Us. We are here for you.

We are here for you.

Get a free consultation today. Call us before you speak with the insurance adjuster.