Self-Driving Car Accidents and Legal Liability in Nevada

Companies like Google, Apple, and Tesla have spent billions developing autonomous cars, and they insist these vehicles will reduce accidents and injuries. But self-driving cars remain a work in progress. An autonomous car accident in Tempe, Arizona, killed a pedestrian, while Tesla’s autopilot software has repeatedly malfunctioned on one specific road in California, causing numerous wrecks.

Autonomous car accidents raise various legal questions regarding liability. Who is responsible for an autonomous car accident if there is no driver? The attorneys at Sam & Ash Injury Law know the law applicable to self-driving car accidents in Nevada and can help you determine whether a technology failure caused your autonomous car wreck. Autonomous vehicle accidents are an emerging area of personal injury law. Keep reading to learn more about the potential legal issues they present.


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What Are the Laws for Self-Driving Vehicles in Nevada?

The Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) contain an entire chapter on self-driving vehicles. The laws contained in this chapter include the following:

  • The DMV requires anyone wishing to test or operate a self-driving car in Nevada to submit an application before they can put the car on the road.
  • Any company wishing to test an autonomous vehicle in Nevada must show that they have $5 million in insurance or post a $5 million bond with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Unless a car meets federal regulations for being fully autonomous, a human driver must be in any self-driving vehicle. Furthermore, the driver must be ready to take control in an emergency situation.
  • An autonomous vehicle may not be operated on Nevada roads with a human operator unless the vehicle complies with the state’s motor vehicle and traffic laws.
  • If the autonomous vehicle is not fully autonomous, it must meet three criteria. First, the car must have a mechanism to engage or disengage the self-driving system that the human operator can easily access. Second, the vehicle must have an indicator showing when the automated driving system is active. Third, the car must be able to alert the human driver to take control if the automated driving system fails.
  • If a third party converts a car into an autonomous vehicle, the vehicle’s original manufacturer is not liable for any injuries caused by the vehicle unless the defect that led to the accident was present in the car when it was first made.
  • If an autonomous vehicle is involved in a collision, the company that made the car must report the crash to the DMV within 10 days if the accident involved any injuries or caused more than $750 in property damage.
  • The DMV has the right to fine any company that falsifies information on an application to open an autonomous vehicle testing facility.

Will Autonomous Cars Reduce Accidents?

Advocates of autonomous cars say self-driving vehicles could reduce the number of car accidents on the nation’s roads in several ways. Proponents argue that a computer can react faster than a human driver in an emergency. If the car reacts fast enough, it may be able to avoid a collision.

Second, advocates say autonomous cars can decrease the number of accidents caused by impaired driving, distracted driving, or other forms of negligent behavior. Because a significant portion of auto accidents result from driver error, autonomous vehicles could help prevent these kinds of wrecks.

Whether autonomous cars can reduce car crashes still needs to be determined. An autonomous vehicle must be able to recognize a potential hazard to react in time to avoid a collision. Autonomous vehicle technology is fallible, as reported accidents have underscored. In the case of the self-driving car accident in Tempe, the National Transportation Safety Board said the vehicle did not recognize a pedestrian in its path in time to avoid the fatal crash.

Software glitches are a recurring problem that could lead to crashes. For example, Tesla’s autopilot system seems to confuse the moon for a yellow traffic light, causing the car to slow down at inappropriate times. If a Tesla on autopilot were to slow down at the wrong time in traffic, it could cause a collision. In that scenario, you might have a case against Tesla. You would need to select a personal injury lawyer who could advocate forcefully on your behalf.

Uber Is Already Testing Autonomous Cars in Las Vegas

According to CNN, Uber has begun testing self-driving cars in Las Vegas and has plans to expand this service in 2023. Determining who is liable for injuries in a rideshare accident is complex. Identifying who is at fault for a rideshare wreck could be even more challenging if a human driver is not driving the car.

Who Is Responsible for an Autonomous Car Accident?

Generally, three parties could be liable for an autonomous vehicle accident. They include the following:

  • The autonomous car’s driver – Few self-driving cars in Las Vegas are fully autonomous because a human driver must be behind the wheel to take control in an emergency. If the human driver in an autonomous car causes a crash because the driver fails to take over in an emergency or is impaired, distracted, or otherwise negligent, the driver could be financially liable for the collision. In the case of a rideshare driver, the driver’s employer also may have liability depending on the circumstances of the accident.
  • The company that made the autonomous car – The companies that make self-driving cars are legally obligated to ensure their vehicles are mechanically sound and as safe as possible. If a company fails in these responsibilities, the vehicle manufacturer could be liable under Nevada’s product liability laws, which require manufacturers to put safe products on the market.
  • The company that made the self-driving car’s software – Similarly, the company that makes the self-driving car’s software could be liable for a crash that results from malfunctioning software.

Get in Touch With Our Las Vegas Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyers

As the development of self-driving cars advances, so will the legal questions regarding liability in self-driving auto accidents. Understanding how to pursue these cases is challenging. It’s important to choose a technology-savvy attorney who knows this area of law and can determine the role that technology played in your accident. If you have been injured in a collision involving a self-driving vehicle, you deserve What’s Right. The team at Sam & Ash Injury Law can investigate the details of your case, determine liability, and advocate for your rights. Call us or visit our contact page for a free consultation with our Las Vegas self-driving car accident lawyers.