Federal Court Finds that Car Manufacturer Shares Responsibility for Fatal Accident

Last year, a man was killed in an accident when he relied solely on his car’s auto-pilot system. Instead of using the reasonable care that is required to operate a motor vehicle, the man used his Tesla’s artificial intelligence technology to drive the car. The technology did not recognize an oncoming truck. The man was struck and killed by the 18-wheeler. Who should be held responsible for the man’s death and truck driver’s injuries? A federal court recently held that Tesla, the car’s designer and manufacturer, should bear some of the blame.

Negligence in California Accidents

When you are injured in an accident, you can seek to recover damages from the person who is responsible for causing the accident. These personal injury lawsuits are generally based on the law of negligence. Negligence occurs when:

  1. A person has a duty to act with reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to others;
  2. That person fails to fulfil this duty; and
  3. Another person is injured as a result.

If you are injured in a car accident in California and want to recover damages through a lawsuit, you must establish each of these elements.

Third-Party Negligence in California Personal Injury Claims

Did you know that you could potentially be liable for accident-related injuries even if you were not personally involved in the accident? Third-party liability exists to make sure that anyone who contributes to an accident in any way can be held responsible. In this case, Tesla – a company who designed and manufactured the vehicle – is being held responsible for the accident. How can a car manufacturer be responsible for injuries in an accident?

When a company designs, manufactures, or sells a product is assumes a responsibility to make sure that the product is safe. In this case, Tesla designed and sold a car that essentially drives itself. The driver of the car is primarily responsible for following local traffic laws and operating the car. However, a federal court found that Tesla’s self-driving software malfunctioned. The software was designed to “perform limited tasks in a limited range of environments.” In this case, however, the driver was able to activate the use the self-driving software in a situation that was unintended. This glitch contributed to the deadly accident. As a result, Tesla is partly to blame and can be held financially accountable.

Comparative Fault in California Accidents

In California, anyone who contributes to an accident can be held financially responsible in a civil lawsuit. This is because California follows the theory of comparative fault. Let’s use the Tesla case as an example of how this works.

In this case, a driver used Tesla technology to operate a car. In using this technology, the driver did not exercise an appropriate degree of care in operating the vehicle. Neither the man nor the Tesla technology saw a big-rig truck making a left-hand turn in front of him. He struck the truck and died. Both the man and Tesla are at fault.

This is important because anyone who wants to file a claim for damages needs to know who can be held responsible. For instance, if the truck driver was injured and wanted to recover compensation for his medical bills, he would want to know who he could file a claim against. Here, he has the option of filing a claim against both Tesla and the driver of the car.

It is important that Tesla can be named as a negligent party in this case if the driver’s family wants to file a wrongful death claim. His family would probably have little-to-no legal recourse if the man had solely been at-fault for the accident. However, since it was determined that Tesla was comparatively negligent, the family can file a claim against the company for damages.

Limited Recovery of Damages in Comparative Fault Cases

If you are injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence you are entitled to recover compensation. If you contribute to the accident that causes your injuries you are not prohibited from recovering compensation. However, your ability to recover damages will be reduced because of your role in the accident.

Let’s say, for example, that you are considered to be 20% at fault for an accident. The other person involved is attributed with the remaining 80% of fault. You are each permitted to file a lawsuit for damages against the other. However, your damages will be capped at 80% of your actual injuries. The other person’s damages will be capped at 20% of their actual injuries. Your ability to recover compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault you have for an accident. Let’s say you both suffered $100,000 in damages. You would only be able to recover $80,000 and the other person would only be able to recover $20,000.

In the Tesla case, the car’s driver and Tesla will each be assigned a percentage of fault. Any amount(s) they can recover or are required to pay will be linked to that percentage.

Experienced California Personal Injury Attorney

If you are injured in a California car accident you may be entitled to compensation from a negligent party. It is important to identify any and all potential defendants in a personal injury case. As you can see from the Tesla case, anyone who is remotely linked to an accident can be held accountable. Hiring an personal injury attorney to handle your case is the best way to ensure that all potentially liable parties are identified. Call Citywide Law Group today for more information.