Who is Liable When a Self-Driving Car Causes an Accident?

Determining liability when a self-driving car causes an accident involves unraveling complex legal and technical questions. With each new development in autonomous vehicle technology comes fresh challenges for establishing responsibility in such cases. The car accident attorneys in Las Vegas share some of the most common liable parties including one or more of the following:


Manufacturers of self-driving vehicles might face liability if accidents are caused by system failures or design and software defects. Such incidents could stem from inadequate safety tests or overlooked flaws during the vehicle’s development phase. When a vehicle’s autonomous system malfunctions due to these issues, leading to an accident, the manufacturer could be held responsible for the resulting damages.

Software Developers

Software developers play a crucial role in the functionality of autonomous vehicles. Errors in coding or malfunctioning algorithms can lead to misinterpretations of sensor data or wrong decision-making processes on the road. If these software shortcomings directly contribute to an accident, developers may be liable, highlighting the importance of rigorous testing and updates.

Human Operators or Owners

In semi-autonomous vehicles, where human intervention is still required under certain circumstances, the human operator (or the vehicle owner) could be liable for accidents. This liability may arise from failing to maintain the vehicle properly, not updating the autonomous vehicle’s software, or not intervening to prevent an accident when the system malfunctions. Owners must adhere to maintenance and update schedules to ensure the vehicle functions correctly.

Other Drivers

Accidents involving autonomous vehicles may also involve the fault of other drivers on the road. This could occur if another driver engages in reckless or negligent behavior, such as speeding, driving under the influence, or failing to obey traffic signs, leading to a collision with a self-driving car. In these cases, the liability could partially or fully fall on the other human driver involved in the accident.

Government Entities

The liability for accidents may extend to government bodies responsible for road design and maintenance. If it can be demonstrated that shortcomings directly led to an accident, government entities may face liability.

When Fault is Shared – Modified Comparative Negligence

When an accident involves shared fault with the victim, Nevada’s modified comparative negligence rule becomes a critical factor in determining legal outcomes. Under this rule, an individual is still eligible to receive compensation through a lawsuit for their injuries if they are found to be 50% or less responsible for the crash that led to their harm.

In any action to recover damages for death or injury to persons or for injury to property in which comparative negligence is asserted as a defense, the comparative negligence of the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s decedent does not bar a recovery if that negligence was not greater than the negligence or gross negligence of the parties to the action against whom recovery is sought.

The amount of damages they’re awarded will then be reduced by their percentage of fault.

For example, consider a scenario where a semi-autonomous vehicle collides with a pedestrian crossing outside of a marked crosswalk. The vehicle was driving above the speed limit, and the pedestrian was distracted by their phone and did not watch the road carefully.

Assuming the court finds the pedestrian 60% at fault for being distracted and crossing in the wrong area, under Nevada’s modified comparative negligence rule, the driver would still be eligible for compensation. However, the total damages awarded to the driver would be reduced by 40%, reflecting their share of the responsibility in the incident.

In accidents involving self-driving cars, pinpointing the liable parties requires a nuanced understanding of both state laws and evolving technologies. If you find yourself in this type of situation and need help, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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