155 N. Michigan Ave. Ste 540
Chicago, Illinois 60601


301 Channahon Street
Shorewood, Illinois 60404


Liability In An Auto Accident Involving A Self-Driving Car

Whiteside & Goldberg > Auto Accidents  > Liability In An Auto Accident Involving A Self-Driving Car

Liability In An Auto Accident Involving A Self-Driving Car

In more recent years there has been a drastic increase of self-driving cars hitting the streets. Some people seem to be increasingly nervous about the increased use of autonomous vehicles, while others are looking forward to being able to take advantage of this new technology. However, with any type of new technology, there are always going to be hundreds of questions. In regard to self-driving cars, one of the most popular questions seems to be “If I’m involved in an accident with a self-driving car, who can be held legally responsible?”.


According to the Insurance Information Institute, the first fatality involving a semi-autonomous vehicle occurred in July 2016. The Tesla Model S failed to acknowledge a truck turning in front of the car, which ultimately led to the death of the Tesla owner. The following report from this incident did not find Tesla at fault. However, since then there have been a number of lawsuits filed against Tesla for similar accidents involving wrongful death.

One case of a lawsuit was in relation to an incident that occurred on March 1, 2019 when Jeremy Banner died after his Tesla model S crashed into a semitrailer, nearly 10 seconds after he turned on autopilot. Following this accident, Banner’s lawyers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla. The lawsuit claimed that Banner was lead to believe that the autonomous vehicle would be safer than a human-operated vehicle, but Tesla was aware of specific defects in the technology that would prevent it from “properly and safely avoid[ing] other vehicles and obstacles in its path”.

In 2018, a self-driving Uber car struck a jaywalking pedestrian on the street in Tempe, Arizona, resulting in her fatality. The automated Uber did not have satisfactory technology to acknowledge a pedestrian that was not near a crosswalk. The safety driver was not keeping her
attention on the street, thus not allowing them to respond to the situation until less than a second before the impact. According to NPR, the Uber corporation was not held criminally liable in this case. However, the safety driver, Vasquez, could be held liable for manslaughter depending on the surrounding conditions affecting what she would have or could have seen. Although Uber could not be held criminally liable, they could still be sued through civil court and have to pay damages. The family of the pedestrian ended up reaching a settlement with Uber.

These cases have raised many questions when it comes to the legality behind assigning responsibility for accidents involved self-driving cars. Most self-driving cars urge the “driver” to still continuously direct their attention to the road at all times, even in auto-pilot mode to allow them to take over if need be, in order to prevent any glitches in the system.

However, without consistent full control of the vehicle, the owner is putting their trust into the self-driving technology to get them safely from point A to B. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to react to a potential on coming accident before it is too late.

Thus, who remains responsible? The owner of the autonomous vehicle, or the company who developed the malfunctioning technology?


Introduced by Rep. Michael J. Zalewski, the Autonomous Vehicle Act provides terms for fully autonomous vehicles in the state Illinois.

  • Allows for the operation of fully autonomous vehicles on the highways of Illinois, without without a human operator
  • “-the automated driving system shall be considered the driver or operator”
  • “-liability for incidents involving a fully autonomous vehicle shall be determined under existing product liability law or common law negligence principles”

According to this Illinois bill, it would appear that the creator and owner of the technology used in the fully autonomous vehicle to navigate the roads and surroundings would be held liable in the case of an accident. But this may differ in regard to semi-autonomous vehicles. It is important to remember that every state’s transportation laws may differ. If you are considering purchasing an autonomous vehicle it is important to research your own state’s laws regarding the legality behind the use of any sort of autonomous driving technology.

If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident involving an autonomous vehicle, contact your lawyer to get more specific information about what you can do to get the help and justice you need, and where the liability may fall depending on your state,

If you are located in Illinois, out lawyers here at Whiteside & Goldberg will be more than happy to assist you in navigating your case and getting you the help that you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation today.


The first thing you should do after a car accident is call an ambulance, even if the people involved feel fine. The EMTs will be able to check everyone out, and may offer advice on treatment to seek, transportation to the hospital or best practices for dealing with minor injuries.

Along with receiving prompt medical care, it is important to contact a law firm that is knowledgeable in auto accidents. WG Law Group knows that there are many different scenarios that can lead to an auto accident. It is of the upmost importance to get to the bottom of who or what actually caused the accident to help victims get the compensation that they deserve.

As self-driving vehicles are just beginning to emerge on the streets, navigating legal cases can be kind of tricky as there are not too many prior cases to refer back to. If you are involved in an auto accident involving a self-driving car, whether it be your own or the other party’s involved in the accident, contact WG Law Group to get the help you need to navigate your case.

You can get a sense of your legal position by taking advantage of their free consultation. Your current finances should not stop you from seeking help. WG Law Group does not charge you a cent until they have secured a settlement for you. For more information, contact them by calling 312-334-6875 for the WG Law Group Michigan Avenue location or at 815-730-7535 for their Shorewood office. Call today to begin your journey to fair compensation.

The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact an attorney at Whiteside & Goldberg, Ltd.


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.