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Are Autonomous Trucks Redefining Liability in Truck Accidents?

Autonomous trucks show what the wonders of technology can do. But they also demonstrate how technological advances in vehicle automation can challenge long-standing laws and legal doctrines, such as liability when self-driving truck accidents occur.

As more driverless commercial trucks are tested on U.S. roads, the transportation and legal fields must consider how autonomous trucks are redefining liability in truck accidents. As robots take over the driving duties, determining who or what is at fault for a crash will become increasingly important to plaintiffs seeking damages in these accidents.

Despite Liability Issues, Some Tout the Benefits of Self-Driving Trucks

There is a lot of promise and potential in the trucking industry, but it has a long way to go before self-driving trucks become the norm. Still, self-driving trucks have multiple benefits, supporters say, who note that driverless commercial big rigs will:

  • Ease labor shortages and help recruitment efforts seeking qualified truckers.
  • Ease high truck driver turnover rates.
  • Use time efficiently, eliminating concerns about truck driver break mandates or hours-of-service regulations from the Administración Federal de Seguridad de Transportistas (FMCSA).
  • Improve road safety because a computer system can remain focused on the road and avoid fatigue.
  • Boost productivity by moving freight to their destinations faster.

There is a lot of promise and potential in the commercial trucking industry, but there is a long way to go before driverless trucks become the norm. Research continues to determine the value of these vehicles and how they can benefit the freight transportation industry.

Who Bears Liability in Autonomous Truck Accidents?

In typical truck accident cases, injured people may hold multiple parties responsible for a commercial truck accident, such as a:

  • Truck driver
  • Truck carrier
  • Cargo-loading crew
  • Another motorist

However, in driverless truck cases, the number of liable parties could increase, making truck accident cases even more complex. That one major difference could mean any of the following could face liability in a crash:

  • The autonomous truck’s owner or fleet operator. Liability issues could grow for these parties if human drivers aren’t trained properly on using or monitoring the systems of driverless trucks.
  • The autonomous truck manufacturer. If the truck’s system malfunctions or has a flaw in its design, the truck’s maker could be liable.
  • The autonomous truck parts manufacturer. Developers have been working to outfit big rigs with onboard computing systems and digital devices to track a commercial vehicle’s travels. If any of these parts fail, the manufacturer could be responsible for damages.
  • The driverless truck’s software developer. Plaintiffs could sue a company if it is determined that software glitches or artificial intelligence (AI) system failure caused an autonomous truck to crash.
  • The company responsible for securing the truck’s data. If a truck is hacked and an accident results, the cybersecurity firm hired to protect the vehicle’s data systems could be named in a crash lawsuit.

This is a partial list of possible parties in an autonomous vehicle truck case. As autonomous trucks redefine liability, a truck accident attorney must look at various collision factors to determine who or what to hold responsible. Factors unique to these cases include determining how autonomous the truck was, the vehicle’s surroundings when it crashed, and how the vehicle was maintained before the accident.

Which Autonomous Vehicle Regulations Apply in a Truck Accident?

As driverless trucks evolve, so will the laws and regulations that govern them. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains, states are still developing legal frameworks for self-driving, artificial intelligence (AI) vehicles, including commercial 18-wheelers. In addition to determining who’s liable, Abogados de lesiones personales must research which laws apply in which state and how those laws affect their clients’ cases.

Determining which laws would determine fault or legal liability will be challenging. Some note that autonomous driving will mean different things in different states, further complicating the liability issue.

In California, the law regarding autonomous vehicles is also evolving. Currently, it allows testing self-driving vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles supervises the Autonomous Vehicles Program. It is responsible for various tasks, including issuing permits to manufacturers testing driverless vehicles on the state’s public roads.

In September 2023, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required driverless vehicles over 10,000 pounds to have human drivers while operating on state roads.

Insurers Are Tracking How Autonomous Trucks Are Redefining Accident Cases

Liability issues are expected to become more complex as the insurance industry adapts to companies using autonomous truck technology. It, too, must study the risks that automated vehicles pose and revise its approach to risk assessment, particularly as these trucks are expected to reduce human error as companies use driverless commercial fleets.

Plaintiffs seeking damages in a driverless truck collision must prove their compensation cases with evidence establishing who’s responsible. A commercial truck accident lawyer current on autonomous truck laws, regulations, legal doctrines, and other relevant topics can help them with their insurance claim or personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Call Us for Information About Autonomous Trucks and Truck Accident Liability

The personal injury attorneys at KJT Grupo de Derecho can review your case involving autonomous commercial trucks. There may be challenging issues in autonomous truck liability cases, and such cases could grow as more companies turn to driverless fleets.Call us today for a free consultation. We can represent you on contingency and only get paid if you win your case.

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