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The news that an Uber self-driving car had killed an Arizona pedestrian raises a few important areas of inquiry for purposes of personal injury matters.  There are multiple different factors involved in determining the cause of an injury or death in a civil lawsuit.

Reports indicate the vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, so there might be something wrong with the design, installation, and/or maintenance of the vehicle, its programming, or any of its components, that would present liability under a products liability type of case.  This type of case usually targets the manufacturers of products that are not safe for their intended purpose, and thus cause injury to others.

The human operator of the vehicle would be considered as a defendant in any suit arising from this incident, under a theory that the operator’s negligence (inattention, perhaps) caused the collision with the pedestrian to occur.  The operator’s employer would then usually also be sued under a theory known as “respondeat superior”, which holds employers responsible for certain actions of their employees.

Most defendants would at some point argue that, because the pedestrian was outside a marked crosswalk at the time she was hit by the car, the pedestrian was at least partially at fault for the collision and her own death.  The defendants would attempt to use this against the plaintiffs to drive down the amount of compensation the decedent’s family would receive.

Of course, every situation has its own unique set of facts, and it is important to speak with an experienced, qualified attorney about your own specific circumstances so you can obtain individualized guidance and advice.  If you, or someone you know, is in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call me at 951-682-6400.

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