Typically when someone gets in a car accident in West Virginia, the driver who is found at fault becomes liable for any resulting damages. With the advent and expansion of the self-driving car industry, however, the question of liability becomes a tricky one.
While self-driving car accidents are amazingly few in number, they do occasionally happen due to a failure in the vehicle’s systems. These cars are marketed as requiring no driver, so does that mean that if you are in an accident while in the drivers’ seat of one of these vehicles, the manufacturer becomes liable?
No clear answer
The West Virginia Legal Examiner points out that as it currently stands, there are no laws governing the assessment of liability in self-driving car accidents. In the absence of law, legally binding contracts may be the only guideline.
When you purchase a Tesla vehicle, for instance, the company has you sign a contract stating that you agree to keep your hands on the wheel at all times. If an accident occurs and it is found that you were not abiding by the terms of this contract, Tesla can claim that they are not liable for any damages.
Automated vehicle laws must be determined by states
States are currently responsible for regulating motor vehicle insurance, conducting necessary safety inspections, registering vehicles and licensing drivers. The only policy that regards the safety of motor vehicles is carried out by the federal government, and it involves a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers. If you were in an accident and can prove that the manufacturer of your self-driving car failed to meet the federal guidelines, it may be possible to find them liable.