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Redefining Liability in the Age of Self-Driving Trucks

Posted on: May 22, 2023

The rapid advancement of self-driving truck technology is generating significant buzz within the transportation industry. As we stand on the cusp of a revolution in the way goods are transported across the nation, it’s crucial to consider the legal implications that come with the adoption of self-driving trucks, particularly in terms of liability.

Let’s take a moment to explore the development and current state of autonomous trucking, examine the legal ramifications, and discuss the importance of seeking legal counsel following a truck accident, whether it involves a self-driving truck or a traditional one. As the transportation industry braces for the potential widespread adoption of self-driving trucks, understanding and navigating the evolving landscape of liability is essential.


A large commercial vehicle driving on the interstate

The Journey to Self-Driving Trucks

For several years, industry giants like Tesla, Daimler, and Volvo have been striving to create self-driving trucks capable of safely navigating roads and highways. While there has been a lot of talk about self-driving vehicles taking over our roads, these trucks are still currently in the testing phase with numerous challenges to overcome, such as regulatory hurdles, technical issues, and public perception.

Despite these obstacles, self-driving truck technology is progressing rapidly. The idea is that when equipped with an array of sensors, cameras, and other cutting-edge tech, these trucks can safely navigate roads and highways. Many also employ advanced machine learning algorithms that enable them to learn from their experiences and enhance performance over time. The potential benefits of self-driving trucks, including increased safety, reduced costs, and improved efficiency, are indeed noteworthy.


Understanding Liability in Self-Driving Truck Accidents

In traditional truck accidents, liability typically hinges on factors such as the actions of the truck driver and the trucking company. For instance, a truck driver may be held liable for negligent driving or safety regulation violations, while the trucking company may be liable for inadequate truck maintenance or failure to hire qualified drivers. In such cases, the injured party generally files a claim against the truck driver and/or the trucking company to seek compensation for damages.

When it comes to self-driving trucks, liability might shift to the manufacturer or software developer if a defect in the truck or software causes an accident. However, if the truck was properly maintained and a human driver caused the accident, liability may still fall on the driver and/or trucking company.

Determining liability in complex self-driving truck accidents can be challenging and may necessitate a thorough investigation. In these cases, the injured party would likely file a claim against the manufacturer or software developer, along with the truck driver and the trucking company, if applicable.


Illustration of commercial truck using autonomous self driving technology on city streets

Challenges in Establishing Liability for Self-Driving Truck Accidents

One of the main challenges in determining liability for self-driving truck accidents will be identifying the responsible party. In complex cases involving self-driving trucks, multiple parties may be held liable, such as the manufacturer, software developer, truck driver, and/or trucking company. Additionally, determining what caused the crash may necessitate reviewing thousands of pages of complex computer code to determine when and where the error occurred. This can result in multiple lawsuits and legal battles. It is anticipated that companies will point the finger at each other and make it as difficult as possible to get information on what occurred.

Furthermore, the emergence of self-driving trucks could impact insurance policies, necessitating updates to reflect the changing liability landscape. Insurance companies may also need to develop new products to cover self-driving trucks and the unique risks they pose.

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Another potential hurdle is many legislatures have considered immunity for self driving vehicles to protect the manufacturer and distributors of this emerging technology. If those politicians grant such immunity, injured victims may be left with no recourse to receive compensation.

To prepare for the shift to self-driving trucks, the trucking industry must collaborate closely with legal experts, insurance experts, and state and federal governments to navigate the changing liability landscape and address regulatory changes to ensure proper testing and certification of this technology before widespread adoption. As a potential victim of these technologies, you need to be aware of how the laws that could be put in place may significantly impact your ability to recover.


Several large modern and colorful commercial trucks

The Complexity of Liability Claims and the Importance of Legal Counsel

Regardless of whether a truck accident involves a self-driving truck or a traditional one, liability claims can be intricate and necessitate the expertise of a legal professional. After a truck accident, it’s vital to seek legal advice to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. At Beers & Gordon, we are dedicated to helping our clients pursue justice and recover from the damages caused by truck accidents. Our experienced team of truck accident attorneys has a proven track record of success in handling truck accident claims.

If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a truck accident, don’t hesitate to contact Beers & Gordon for a free consultation. Our knowledgeable team is here to help you navigate the legal landscape and seek the compensation you deserve.

Jim Gordon / Beers and Gordon P.A. / Civil Trial Attorneys

Jim Gordon

Jim Gordon earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Nebraska in 1997, and two years later began working at a firm in Orlando handling insurance defense matters on cases involving vehicle accidents, negligence, product liability, and more. He established Beers & Gordon P.A. with David Beers in 2009 to represent the rights of people injured because of negligence. He is a member of the invitation-only National Trial Lawyers organization and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.


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