Being involved in a car accident can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming experience, particularly if the accident involves a self-driving vehicle. These incidents often leave victims grappling with physical injuries, emotional trauma, and significant financial burdens. I understand how challenging this time can be, and my goal is to provide you with the necessary information and support to navigate through this complex situation. 

At the Law Office of James A. Maniatis, I am deeply committed to serving clients in Shrewsbury, Southborough, Webster, and throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My firm has a wealth of experience in handling personal injury cases, including those involving self-driving car accidents. I strive to provide personalized attention, aggressive representation, and comprehensive legal services to help clients achieve the best possible outcome. 

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The Basics of Self-Driving Cars  

Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, use advanced technologies such as sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence to operate without human intervention. While these vehicles promise greater safety and efficiency, they also introduce new legal complexities when accidents occur. 

Liability in Self-Driving Car Accidents  

Determining liability in these cases can be a challenging task. These are some key points I'll consider: 

  • Shifting Responsibility: As autonomous cars take over the task of driving from humans, there is a need for existing liability laws to evolve. The responsibility may shift from drivers to the manufacturers of the autonomous technology. 

  • Different Theories of Tort Liability: Three basic theories of tort liability could apply: traditional negligence, no-fault liability, and strict liability. Depending on the specifics of the accident, any of these could be used to determine liability. 

  • Manufacturer Liability: Autonomous car manufacturers may find themselves liable for incidents based on negligence, product liability, or strict liability. This means if there's a flaw in the design or manufacturing of the self-driving technology, they could be held responsible. 

  • Defenses for Manufacturers: Possible defenses for manufacturers include comparative negligence (if the human driver was partly at fault), product misuse (if the vehicle was not used as intended), and state-of-the-art (if the technology was the best available at the time). 

  • Cyber Liability: Cybersecurity is a major concern with autonomous vehicles. If a breach or hack leads to an accident, this could introduce another layer of liability. 

  • International Laws: Countries like the UK, France, and Germany have specific legislation regarding liability for autonomous vehicles. In the US, the SELF DRIVE Act of 2017 may impact liability laws. 

  • Insurance Industry Changes: As autonomous vehicles become more prevalent, the insurance industry is expected to undergo significant changes. This could affect how claims are handled and who is covered. 

  • Manufacturer Declarations: Some car manufacturers such as Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have declared that they will accept liability for incidents involving their autonomous vehicles. This is a significant step towards clarifying liability in self-driving car accidents.  

Product Liability Claims 

If a defect in the vehicle's design or manufacturing led to the accident, we might pursue a product liability claim against the car manufacturer. Such claims aim to hold manufacturers accountable for injuries or damages caused by their defective products. 

There are generally three types of defects that might cause injury and give rise to manufacturer or supplier liability:  

  1. Design Defects: These are inherent; they exist before the product is manufactured. While the item might serve its purpose well, it can be unreasonably dangerous to use due to its design. For self-driving cars, a design defect could be something like a poorly placed sensor that impedes the vehicle's ability to detect obstacles. 

  1. Manufacturing Defects: These occur during the construction or production of the item. Even if the design of the car is sound, errors in the manufacturing process can create defects that make the vehicle unsafe. 

  1. Marketing Defects: These are flaws in the way the product is marketed, such as improper labeling, insufficient instructions, or inadequate safety warnings.  

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, determining the type of defect can be complex and often requires experienced testimony. 

The Challenge With Software 

A unique challenge in autonomous vehicle accidents is the role of software. If a crash occurs due to a software glitch, it falls under a gray area in product liability law. Currently, laws aren't comprehensive enough to cover these scenarios thoroughly, making it a complex issue to tackle in court. 

Manufacturer's Defenses 

Manufacturers often have defenses they can use to counter product liability claims. They might argue that the user misused the product in an unforeseeable way, or that the user assumed risk by using the product. In the context of autonomous vehicles, manufacturers might argue that modifications made by the owner led to the accident. 

Negligence Claims  

If the accident resulted from the negligence of a human driver, a negligence claim could be filed against the responsible party. This could include actions such as distracted driving, speeding, or failure to yield the right of way. 

Insurance Coverage  

Insurance coverage for self-driving car accidents can be intricate. Traditional auto insurance policies may not adequately cover accidents involving autonomous vehicles. Therefore, consulting with an experienced attorney is crucial to determine the scope of insurance coverage and explore all avenues for compensation. 

Statute of Limitations  

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim after a car accident is typically three years. It's essential to act promptly and seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights and prevent missing the deadline for filing a claim. 


Navigating the aftermath of a self-driving car accident can be complex and stressful. At the Law Office of James A. Maniatis, we understand these challenges and are committed to standing by your side every step of the way. Our experienced team will guide you through the legal process, fight for your rights, and strive to help you get the compensation you deserve.