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Self-Driving Truck Accidents: Who Can You Sue?

Expect to see an increase in large self-driving trucks on America’s roadways, even as deadly accidents in connection with self-driving automobiles make headlines.

Given a critical big rig driver shortage and the huge profits that transportation companies anticipate making by leveraging self-driving technology, some experts are saying that self-driving trucks are the future of commercial transportation. After all, robots don’t get tired. Robots always adjust their driving so they are operating in the most fuel-efficient manner. And computer-generated robot drivers never call in sick.

Are Self-Driving Trucks Safer?

Large trucks present risks on the roadways that passenger cars don’t, and getting into an accident with a semi-truck is more likely to result in severe injury or even death.

Trucks can jackknife. Cars can slide underneath a truck in an underride accident. And, because of their high center of gravity, trucks are more likely to roll over during accidents.  In 2016 alone, almost 4,000 people died in large truck crashes.

Proponents of self-driving vehicles say robots will reduce the number of truck accidents because they can see, hear, and even think faster and better than humans.

But are obvious questions about safety, responsibility, and ethics that need to be addressed anytime technology takes over human activity. This is especially true if the new technology is self-operating a 40-ton truck whizzing down a busy major highway at 70 mph.

According to The Wired Guide to Self-Driving Cars, “Safe driving requires more than just knowing that a person is over there; you also have to know that said person is riding a bicycle, how they’re likely to act, and how to respond. That’s hard for a robot.”

To what extent self-driving cars and trucks will be able to mimic (or improve upon) human judgment remains to be seen. Can a machine be taught to recognize nuance? Will a robot engage in a clearly counter-intuitive action when necessary to preserve life? Is there an algorithm for discernment?

Who is Held Responsible in a Self-Driving Truck Accident?

Usually, when a truck driver causes an accident, you are able to sue the driver and, in many instances, their employers. Colorado laws make employers responsible for their employees who cause injury through their carelessness on the job.

But laws concerning who is responsible for damages in accidents caused by self-driving trucks are not as clear. There is no driver to file a claim against. The responsible party could be the owner of the truck, the manufacturer of the vehicle, and/or the company that is responsible for the technology that actually drives the truck. The laws about whether and to what extent these parties can be held responsible is uncertain at best, and at worst tipped in favor of the big companies and not the victim.

The rules around liability in self-driving vehicles are rapidly changing. If you have questions about self-driving vehicles and how they are changing the legal landscape, you might want to speak to a Colorado Springs car accident lawyer to help you understand your legal rights.

If you are injured in an accident with a large truck — self-driving or not — call the attorneys at Levine Law at 719-471-3000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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