What Happens When a Self-Driving Car Causes an Auto Accident?

A motorcycle rider is riding in the right lane of a larger three-lane street. The biker attempts to move into the middle lane. Meanwhile, there is a GM Cruise that is attempting to move from the middle lane to the left-most lane. The Cruise recognizes that there is a gap open between two cars. It begins the maneuver. But as it attempts to change lanes, it recognizes that a car ahead of it is accelerating. Its gap is closing. The GM Cruise thinks better of shifting lanes. It swerves back into the lane it was exiting.

Unfortunately, the biker is now occupying that lane. The GM Cruise slams into the biker, who tries to accelerate to avoid hitting the cruise. The biker doesn’t completely make it. The motorcycle is hit and falls over.

This event, which could describe a thousand other accidents between cars and motorcycles, actually occurred with a self-driving autonomous Cruise.

As technology advances and the artificial intelligence systems guiding self-driving vehicles improve, it seems likely that traffic accident lawsuits like these won’t ever go away. In some ways, it was a very human mistake to make. It could have happened to anyone.

Who is Responsible for the Accident?

GM and the motorcycle rider, Oscar Nilsson, disagreed on who was at fault for the accident. GM argued that Nilsson was trying to lane-split in order to go past the Cruise. Nilsson argued he accelerated for the purpose of attempting to maneuver away from the Cruise. In the end, GM settled the lawsuit.

Since the details of the incident have been sealed by the settlement, we may never know exactly what happened.

What we do know is that the rules for self-driving cars aren’t any different than for their human counterparts. They do, however, cross a number of different areas of personal injury law, which make them intriguing.

We, as lawyers, can guess that GM probably did not want some of the details of the lawsuit to become public, which would have happened had the case gone to trial. Self-driving cars, much like their human counterparts, have difficulty spotting smaller vehicles, like motorcycles.

On the other hand, bikers have a reputation for being reckless adrenaline junkies who won’t necessarily stay in their lane.

This court case, in fact, played out the same way thousands of accidents between motorcyclists and cars have before. The defense accused the biker of being reckless and trying to speed past, while the motorcyclist advocated on his own behalf.

Motorcyclist Blamed for Incident in Police Report

The police report listed the motorcyclist as the at-fault party in the accident. Police reports, however, are not the final authority on what happened. It’s important for those who have been in accidents to remember that a police officer’s first job is to make sure the scene of the accident is secure, make sure everyone is ok, and then lastly, to get a report of what happened. If the police report conflicts with eyewitness reports or material evidence, the police report may be considered unreliable.

In this case, the police report named the plaintiff as the at-fault party, and yet he was still able to secure a sizeable settlement from the accident.

Contact Us Today for Help

If you’ve been in an accident with either a human or a self-driving car, an Orange County car accident lawyer at RMD Law can handle your case. Give us a call at (949) 326-5000 or contact us online and we’ll ensure you’re compensated for your injuries.

Aria Miran
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