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What GM’s Cruise Debacle Means for Injured Victims in California

What GM’s Cruise Debacle Means for Injured Victims in California

After countless injuries and accidents, GM is finally agreeing to recall its fleet of driverless Cruise robotaxis from California’s streets. While the general consensus is that this will make the Golden State a safer place, there are still many unanswered questions. What does this mean for the future of driverless cars in California? What does this decision say about the safety of driverless vehicles in general? And perhaps most importantly, what happens to the countless injured victims that suffered as a result of this “experiment” by General Motors? Investigations are ongoing, and California citizens are demanding answers. 

Pedestrian Accident Proves to Be Last Straw for Cruise

On November 8, 2023, various media sources reported GM’s decision to completely recall its entire fleet of Cruise robotaxis. The fleet consists of almost 1,000 vehicles, mostly operating around major US cities such as San Francisco. All operations were initially suspended in late October as authorities looked into a number of serious reports involving safety issues. The results of this investigation have apparently left GM with no other option but to completely abandon the endeavor, at least for now. General Motors has previously stated that the business could bring in “billions” by 2030. As of right now, however, Cruise represents a $700 loss for the auto giant. 

These losses could yet increase, especially when you consider the number of potential lawsuits that could arise from recent accidents. Although Cruise vehicles have been involved in a number of traffic incidents since their introduction, one particular accident stands out. In October, a pedestrian was reportedly dragged underneath a Cruise robotaxi for several feet before the automobile’s software finally brought it to a halt. This incident has serious implications, as many observers opined that a human driver would have realized that a victim was underneath the vehicle much sooner. 

GM later provided insights into the incident, stating that the vehicles were programmed to automatically pull over in the event of an accident. Because of this programming, the vehicle continued without stopping after impacting the victim. This caused the dragging of the victim as the vehicle continued on its pre-programmed route to the side of the road without “realizing” that a human being was trapped underneath. Cruise readily admitted that this software error would have caused a similar incident “every 10 million to 100 million miles.” 

Cruise’s Legal Issues Continue

Cruise is still facing two unresolved investigations into the safety of its vehicles. These two investigations revolve around incidents where Cruise robotaxis allegedly failed to yield to pedestrians walking across crosswalks. This shows that despite shutting down its entire fleet, Cruise is only just beginning to experience legal consequences. Numerous lawsuits and investigations may follow, and GM is probably asking itself whether the endeavor was truly worth it. As we move forward, GM is encountering not only legal issues but also financial problems. The recall of the Cruise fleet led directly to a drop in GM’s share prices. 

As for the victim who was dragged underneath the robotaxi, she is apparently still recovering from her injuries. Despite making a miraculous recovery, her life will likely never be the same. Her experience highlights just one potential lawsuit that GM may face in the near future, and it seems unlikely that they will avoid financial consequences. According to various observers, the Cruise vehicle’s “decision” to continue driving even after the pedestrian was lodged underneath the vehicle forms the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. 

It is worth pointing out that a human driver would not face the same consequences. The injured victim was initially hit by a second vehicle, and this impact threw her into the path of the Cruise vehicle. Initially, the Cruise vehicle did the right thing – it braked. If a human had done this, they could hardly be blamed for any injuries. It was the fact that the Cruise vehicle started moving again afterward that made this a clear-cut case of negligence. A human driver would have never accelerated with another person lodged underneath. 

What if the Future is Driverless?

Despite the fact that GM’s Cruise debacle represents a major setback for driverless vehicles, there is a very real possibility that this is just a minor speed bump. There are many who say that driverless vehicles are, in fact, the future, and this may eventually prove to be the norm in major cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco. What happens when everyone becomes passengers of robotaxi companies? If this transformation ever occurs, it will likely become easier for victims to pursue compensation for pedestrian injuries. This is because major tech companies like GM have an endless supply of cash to pay off injured pedestrians. 

Even if life becomes more dangerous for the average person crossing the road, it should be easier to pursue compensation from GM than an average motorist with the absolute minimum insurance coverage. Tech and auto companies are fully capable of paying out millions in settlement money without batting an eye. This situation is hardly ideal, especially if software issues make life more dangerous for pedestrians in California. But at the very least, it provides a reliable financial safety net as tech companies use public streets as testing grounds. As with almost all injury cases, these tech companies are more likely to settle out of court rather than pursue trials. While this might provide reliable compensation to victims, private settlements might also hide information from the public. 

Can I Pursue Compensation After Being Injured by a Driverless Vehicle in California?

If you were injured by any type of vehicle in California, you deserve the right to assess your rights alongside a legal professional. Whether you were injured by a self-driving robotaxi, an Uber vehicle, or an average motorist, you can pursue options for compensation. Choose Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP, and work alongside a qualified personal injury attorney in California as you consider the most appropriate course of action. With our help, you can strive to cover your medical expenses, missed wages, emotional distress, and other damages. Reach out today to get started.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.