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Who do you sue if you're hit by an autonomous vehicle?

Most people understand that if they get into a car accident and it's their fault, they will be the one who has to pay for the other person's injuries and damages to that person's vehicle. What happens with a driverless car, though?

Driverless cars are a new technology, and they are intended to cause fewer accidents by removing human error from the equation. If there is an accident, who is to blame? Should you still seek a lawsuit against the driver, or is it really a product liability claim?

So far, insurance companies are waiting to see what happens. Realistically, it would be up to the individual's insurance company to determine who to file a claim against. Some companies, such as Volvo, have said that they would take full liability for the cars when they're an autonomous mode, but not all vehicles can be driven without any user input.

This issue is becoming urgent, because autonomous vehicles could be in the consumer market by 2018 or 2019. Even the most fully automated vehicle is likely to be driven at least some of the time by the human driver, because there are very few where a driver is not needed to travel, at least for now. Unless a person is driving a completely autonomous vehicle, then that driver could be held responsible for any accidents that take place. On the other hand, those driving vehicles that they do not control may be off the hook. Instead, a victim may have to pursue a product liability claim against the manufacturer.

If you're hit by one of these unique vehicles, consider talking to a legal professional about your accident. It's an unusual case at the moment, and it's still a gray area in law.

Source: Market Watch, "If a driverless car gets into an accident, whose fault is it?," Alessandra Malito, Oct. 22, 2016

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