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Automatic driving technology, human error, and liability, P.3

In recent posts, we’ve been looking at how human error factors into the discussion of liability for accidents involving automatic driving technology. As has been pointed out, automatic vehicles as currently designed may, in some instances at least, be more prone to accidents due to the fact that they do not adapt well to situations which require temporarily violating traffic regulations for the sake of safety. This raises ethical and legal questions that have not yet been adequately answered.   

One of the points we made last time was that liability for traffic violations which occur in order to avoid great harm for a driver can come up in car accident cases. One possibility is that a driver might be sued by a motorist who is harmed by the driver’s traffic violations aimed at preventing a serious accident by a third party. For instance: a driver might swerve into another vehicle in attempting to avoid an accident from an ongoing vehicle, inadvertently causing another accident. 

Another possibility is that a driver sued by a plaintiff who suffers serious harm in attempting to avoid another accident could claim contributory negligence, or appeal to the principle of comparative negligence. For instance, a defendant might attempt to argue that the plaintiff was partially responsible for his or her own injuries because he or she took unreasonable measures to avoid an accident.

Ordinarily, traffic violations may serve as evidence of negligence, but situations where traffic violations occur in order to avoid harm must be examined in context. In any such scenario, the guiding principle is whether reasonable care was exercised in the operation of a motor vehicle. The arguments for liability in such cases can become complicated, of course, and it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure one’s rights are protected and that one builds the strongest possible case. 

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