Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

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The Atlantic published an article today in the wake of the accident that caused a pedestrian to be killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona.  A link to that article can be found here. This is hardly the first incident involving a wrongful death at the hand of a self driving vehicle.  In 2016 in Florida, a Tesla operating is auto-pilot mode struck another vehicle and killed the driver.  The article asks the question, “What are the legal implications in accidents involving self driving car?”  While the answer might seem obvious, there are quite a few factors that will impact the answer.

First, the article raises the point that this accident happened in Arizona which has declared itself open for business when it comes to testing and operating self driving automobiles.  Arizona’s Governor signed an executive order in August of 2015 which required the Arizona Department of Transportation to take steps to support the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on Arizona’s roads.  An investigation into what Arizona did or did not do to make sure the roads were safe for self-driving cars and the general public needs to be investigated.

Obviously, UBER in this case, or whatever company owns the self-driving vehicle involved in the accident is the first place to investigate when it comes to determining who is at fault for an accident involving an autonomous vehicle.  Other self driving-vehicle companies like Lyft, Waymo, Tesla, GM and Intel have set down roots in Arizona too.  Since we know that 96+% of all automobile accidents are the result of driver error, this is the obvious place to start any investigation.

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On May 12, 2011, Irma Sabanovic was on her way to pick up her boyfriend from his job as a DJ at the popular Chicago nightclub, Exit.  Somehow she became lost and wound up on Goose Island, an artificial island located in the Chicago River.  Goose Island is a heavy industrial area that is confusing to navigate.  Irma found her way onto W. Blackhawk Street.  While travelling westbound on Blackhawk her car left the road and plunged into the inky darkness of the North Branch of the Chicago River.  For nine days the Chicago Police searched for Irma, treating the case as a missing person’s investigation.  Eventually her body was discovered inside her upside down vehicle submerged in 12 feet of water at the bottom of the river off of the end of Blackhawk St.  Police canvassing the area were able to locate a closed circuit surveillance video that captured her vehicle driving off of the end of the road and into the river at 2:00 am on the morning of May 12, 2011.

Irma Sabanovic was a 25 year old fashion model who was studying theater at Wilbur Wright College.  She was a beautiful, sweet, fun-loving woman with a wickedly smart sense of humor.  Her family, unable to make sense of her needless and tragic death, hired Goldberg & Goldberg to investigate the circumstances and determine why there were no signs, barricades and warnings at the end of the road.  A wrongful death and survival lawsuit was filed at the end of May 2011 against the City of Chicago.

For years the City claimed that there were no warning signs at the end of the road, even though a similar tragic accident had occurred 17 years earlier on the opposite bank of the Chicago River.  After that accident, the City erected barricades on the West bank of the river but claimed to have done nothing on the East bank.  Or so we were told, until the City of Chicago discovered the proof of their own negligence in late 2015 when they “found” work orders which showed that stop signs and a dead end sign had been placed in 1993 and removed, for an unexplained reason, sometime thereafter.  It was also determined that a 2000 lb concrete Jersey Barrier had been placed on the road near the east bank of the river but that the barricade did not extend across the entire length of the roadway.  Had concrete barriers been deployed across the entirety of Blackhawk St. this tragedy would have certainly been avoided.