Are self-driving cars safe? Auto manufacturers would like you to believe so. These companies claim that drivers of autonomous cars experience fewer accidents thanks to automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and other high-tech functions.
Despite stringent testing processes, autonomous cars aren’t perfect, and neither are their human drivers. Here’s why you should get in touch with a New Jersey self-driving vehicle accident attorney today.
Importance of Hiring a Self-Driving Vehicle Accident Attorney
If you’ve been hurt in a self-driving car accident, you’re likely staring down a pile of medical bills. You may wonder who’s going to pay for them, especially if another driver is at fault. Autonomous vehicles have limited driver interaction, however, so proving liability can be difficult. This is why you need an experienced self-driving vehicle accident attorney who knows the laws surrounding unique cases like these.
How Does It Differ From a Regular Car Accident Attorney?
In a regular car accident, it’s usually easy for a lawyer to figure out who was liable. Drivers who speed, play on their phones, or ignore road signs regularly cause wrecks on New Jersey roads. But proving liability in accidents involving self-driving vehicles isn’t quite so simple because these vehicles can have different levels of autonomy. They include:
- Level Zero: No autonomy. A human driver remains in control at all times.
- Level One: A human driver remains in control but can activate one autonomous system at a time.
- Level Two: The driver must operate the vehicle but can activate two autonomous systems at a time.
- Level Three: All safety-critical functions are automated. The driver must take over if prompted by the system.
- Level Four: The autonomous system handles all driving tasks, and the system can only operate in limited service areas.
- Level Five: The vehicle can operate freely everywhere with no restrictions and doesn’t require input from a human driver.
Vehicles at the top three levels aren’t yet available in the U.S. In a partially autonomous car accident, your New Jersey self-driving vehicle accident attorney will need to consider whether or not the driver had control of their car when it crashed.
Factors To Consider When Choosing an Attorney
Do you have a case against a negligent driver? If they had control of their car when it crashed, you might. Here’s what to consider when choosing someone to review and handle your case.
There’s far too much at stake to risk handing your accident case to a brand-new lawyer. Self-driving cars and accidents involving them are quite new, and your average attorney doesn’t yet have enough experience handling cases like these.
If you want compensation for your self-driving car accident, don’t risk your case’s outcome on an inexperienced firm. Instead, look for an attorney who knows the laws regarding self-driving vehicles on New Jersey roads.
A specialized firm that handles self-driving vehicle accident cases has knowledge and expertise that regular law firms don’t, which can make a big difference in how your case turns out.
You’ll need someone who understands New Jersey car accident laws, too, since vehicle collision laws vary quite a bit from state to state. Otherwise, your self-driving accident case might not go the way you hoped.
Look for a New Jersey self-driving vehicle attorney with a strong track record of proving liability in accidents similar to yours. Visit the attorney’s website and read their online reviews to see if other clients have been pleased with the firm’s service. Also consider asking friends, family, and coworkers for their local recommendations.
Fees and Charges
When looking for an attorney to take on your self-driving vehicle accident case, it pays to shop around. You want an attorney who fits your budget and provides you with clear pricing information before work begins.
Ask each attorney you talk to how they bill their clients. Some charge an hourly rate, while others operate on contingency and take their pay out of any settlement money the court awards you. Hiring a lawyer on contingency can be appealing because you don’t need to use your own money to pay for legal fees up front.
Find out what the attorney’s fee includes, too. Some attorneys bill separately for travel, shipping, filing paperwork, and other duties. If you don’t learn about these costs before hiring a lawyer, your legal fees could be higher than expected.
How Does a Specialized Attorney Assist You With the Legal Process?
In a self-driving car accident case, the attorney’s job is to prove liability. Is the driver or the vehicle manufacturer to blame? Many attorneys have never handled a case like this before. This is why you need an attorney who’s dealt with other self-driving car wreck cases. Experienced lawyers know what to look for and how to prove who’s at fault.
An attorney must consider whether the driver had control of their vehicle when they crashed it. If the accident happened because of an autonomous system defect, you would likely make a claim against the vehicle manufacturer.
If the driver had full control, though, your case would play out differently. Insurance companies might cover some of your medical bills and losses from an accident, regardless of whose fault it was.
New Jersey is a modified comparative fault state, which means the insurance company will base its payout on how much responsibility you had for the crash. As an example, the other driver’s insurance company might argue that you were 30% at fault for the accident. In this case, you’d receive 70% of your total damages award. But if you were more than 50% responsible, the insurer won’t give you any money at all.
How can you prove that someone else caused your self-driving car accident? It definitely isn’t easy. That’s why you need a specialized attorney who has experience proving liability and comparative fault.
How Much Does It Cost To Hire an Attorney?
This is a question with no single right answer since prices and fee structures for attorneys can vary widely. If you pick a firm well versed in self-driving car accidents, though, you might pay less for a lawyer to take your case.
Since niche firms are already familiar with cases like these, they won’t need to spend valuable time learning the laws surrounding self-driving cars and driver liability. Choosing a general law firm, on the other hand, could mean a lengthy case process and higher legal fees.
Are Self-Driving Vehicle Accidents Common in New Jersey?
New Jersey reported 652 fatal car crashes and 695 fatalities in 2022, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The state doesn’t specify how many accidents involved self-driving vehicles.
However, news reports on self-driving vehicle crashes are far from uncommon. In one 2019 story, a New Jersey driver reported losing control of his car because its automatic steering system had locked in place. No one was injured in this accident, but drivers involved in similar crashes haven’t all been as fortunate.
Nationwide, vehicles equipped with partially automated driving systems were involved in nearly 400 crashes in just 11 months. In many of these crashes, drivers owned vehicles using autopilot or traffic-aware cruise control systems. Because of these accidents, six people were seriously hurt, and five lost their lives.
Self-driving technology improves more every year, which means auto manufacturers expect incidents like these to happen less frequently. But for now, automated systems aren’t perfect. That means drivers can still cause accidents every now and then.
Drivers retain control over partially autonomous vehicles, so there is always the potential for an accident to happen when they’re behind the wheel. Common causes of accidents include the following:
- Reckless and distracted driving, such as staring at a phone or chatting with passengers
- Drunk driving and driving under the influence
- Ignoring stop signs, right-of-way signs, and other road signage
- Traffic signals that have stopped working
- View obstructions, such as buildings and trees
- Slick roads caused by chemical spills or other road debris
- Weather conditions, including heavy rain and snowfall
- Fatigue in commercial vehicle drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel
When Do You Need a Self-Driving Vehicle Accident Attorney?
According to New Jersey law, drivers must carry a minimum of $15,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This money covers at least some of your medical bills, but it doesn’t pay for damages that don’t have a financial value. To sue for pain and suffering, for example, you’ll likely need to file a claim against the at-fault party, and that’s why a self-driving vehicle accident attorney can be so helpful.
The other driver may try to argue that the self-driving car itself was at fault, so they shouldn’t need to pay you for damages. They might also try to claim that you caused the accident yourself. A New Jersey self-driving vehicle accident attorney will work to protect you from such false accusations and prove true liability in your case.
Contact Sadaka Law at (800) 810-3457 to learn more about how we can help with your self-driving vehicle accident case.