Since its founding in 2003, Tesla has taken the world by storm. The Austin-based company is one of the world’s most valuable companies and is currently the world’s most valuable automaker, capturing nearly a quarter of the global market for battery-electric vehicles.
But as dominant as Tesla has become, its vehicles have been the subject of growing scrutiny over several safety issues that have been linked to catastrophic accidents, injuries, and deaths. This includes crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving software, as well as problematic issues related to explosions, sudden acceleration, airbag malfunction, and seatbelt failure.
At Levy Konigsberg, our award-winning trial lawyers are reviewing potential claims from victims who were injured in collisions involving Tesla vehicles. If you have questions about pursuing a Tesla lawsuit, we want to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.
Tesla Autopilot & Full-Self-Driving Software Crashes
Tesla is recalling all 363,000 US vehicles with the "Full Self Driving" (FSD) driver assist software due to safety risks. The FSD feature, which currently requires a human driver prepared to take control at any moment, has been found to have "led to an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety based on insufficient adherence to traffic safety laws," according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Tesla has identified 18 reports of incidents between May 8, 2019 and September 12, 2022, that may be related to the conditions described above.
Tesla vehicles are known for their suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that offer technologies such as lane centering, traffic-aware cruise control, automatic lane change, self-parking, and more.
As part of its goal to reach full autonomy, Tesla has continually updated its software and released new firmware upgrades. This includes various iterations of Tesla Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot (EA), and Full Self-Driving (FSD).
- Tesla Autopilot is an advanced driver-assistance system that requires active driver supervision. Sensors and software to support Autopilot have been equipped on All Tesla vehicles since 2014 and in 2019, all vehicles included Autopilot as a standard feature. In 2020, Tesla released updates to allow vehicles to recognize and automatically stop at stop signs and traffic lights.
- Full Self-Driving (FSD) is an extension of Autopilot designed to keep up with traffic, steer in the lane, and abide by traffic signals. Although promoted as being able to eventually perform fully autonomous driving, Tesla has warned drivers who download FSD that it “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.” On Thanksgiving Day 2022, Tesla announced that FSD beta software would be available to anyone in North America who pays for the option.
These technologies, while groundbreaking, have been associated with significant safety concerns, numerous injuries, dozens of verified fatalities, and a number of deadly incidents involving suspected Autopilot or FSD use dating back to 2016. The technologies have also been implicated in complaints from concerned drivers, regulatory investigations, and several high-profile lawsuits.
Here are some of the latest incidents and investigations involving Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD software:
- In February 2022, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) announced that it was investigating Tesla’s driver-assist technologies, Autopilot, and “full self-driving” software over reports of unexpected braking that occurs “without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive.” The agency has received hundreds of complaints related to “phantom braking” from Tesla owners.
- In November 2022 (Thanksgiving Day), a Tesla Model S was involved in an eight-car pileup in the San Francisco Bay Area that resulted in nine injuries. The Tesla driver told authorities that the vehicle’s full-self-driving software braked unexpectedly. An investigation by NHTSA confirmed that the vehicle’s full self-driving software was engaged within 30 seconds of the crash.
- In November 2022, NHTSA opened an investigation into a severe crash involving a Tesla Model Y that took control and forced itself into the incorrect lane during a left turn. The driver’s complaint is believed to be the first complaint alleging Full Self-Driving as the cause of a crash. NHTSA opened another investigation into a non-fatal crash two weeks later involving a Tesla Model 3 that may have been on Autopilot when it struck a stationary Ohio State Highway Patrol cruiser in Toledo, Ohio.
- In September 2022, Tesla was sued in a proposed class action over claims that the automaker mislead consumers by falsely advertising its Autopilot and FSD features as fully functioning, despite knowing the technology did not work or was nonexistent, and made vehicles unsafe. The suit came one month after the California DMV filed complaints accusing Tesla of misleading prospective customers with advertisements that overstated how well its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) worked.
- In August 2022, a Tesla Model 3 fatally struck a motorcyclist from behind on a road outside of Boca Raton, Florida. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office later confirmed that the Tesla driver was using Autopilot. The incident occurred a month after two similar incidents, one involving a Tesla Model 3 on Autopilot that killed a motorcyclist in Draper, Utah and another involving a Tesla Model Y that fatally struck a motorcyclist in Riverside, California.
- In July 2021, a Tesla Model Y SUV fatally stuck a man who had parked his vehicle on the left shoulder of the Long Island Expressway in Queens, New York to change a flat tire. NHTSA later confirmed that Autopilot was active during the collision.
- In May 2021, a Tesla Model 3 crashed into an overturned tractor-trailer in Fontana, California, killing the Tesla driver and injuring a man who had stopped to assist the truck driver. California Highway Patrol officials reported that Autopilot was engaged prior to the crash. One day later, a pedestrian was killed in a 3-car crash in Mission Viejo, California involving a Tesla Model 3 that was on Autopilot.
Accidents involving Tesla vehicles being operated on Autonomous or Full Self-Driving mode create complex issues of liability and questions that are still being explored in our courts.
For example, while drivers may be responsible for negligence or over-reliance on Tesla ADAS features, liability may shift from driver to manufacturer when vehicles utilize software and technology that are more autonomous. That’s because automakers like Tesla are liable for defects – including defects in software, firmware upgrades, and other facets of autonomous technology – that pose unreasonable risks of harm.
Given the complexity of Tesla accident lawsuits and the evolving case law on the subject, these cases demand the attention of attorneys with resources and experience.
At Levy Konigsberg, we’ve earned U.S. News “Best Law Firms” highest Tier 1 rating for helping plaintiffs recover over $3 billion in compensation in high-profile cases across the country. Our attorneys are known for taking on complex claims against powerful opponents and have extensive experience litigating cases involving negligence, products liability, serious injuries, and wrongful death.
Our Tesla lawsuit attorneys are available to evaluate your case and available options during a FREE consultation. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.
Other Safety Issues Associated with Tesla Vehicles
In addition to phantom braking and various safety concerns involving Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features, several other safety issues have been associated with Tesla vehicles. These include:
Tesla Vehicle Fires & Explosions
Tesla vehicles contain lithium-ion batteries that may carry an increased risk of fires and explosions. Many fires in Tesla vehicles are caused by the battery experiencing some kind of shock. This may be triggered by a collision at high speed. Tesla vehicles have also been reported to catch fire while charging idly, even when not involved in any recent accident. Some experts believe that the thousands of lithium-ion battery cells in the Tesla battery pack can go into failure mode either from overcharging, undercharging, or overheating. Tesla has been reluctant to disclose the cause of these explosions in the past.
Both faulty battery design and negligent manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries have been investigated as potential causes of spontaneous explosions. Many of these incidents have raised concerns as to whether Tesla battery technology is safe. Tesla explosions in Belgium, Hong Kong, California, China, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas, have killed several drivers and passengers.
Reports indicate that Tesla vehicles contain a defect that can cause sudden spontaneous acceleration. According to complaints filed with NHTSA between 2013 and 2019, there were 110 crashes and 52 injuries related to sudden acceleration issues. Tesla has alleged that complaints of sudden acceleration are false but did not provide details as to how it arrived at this conclusion.
According to the NHTSA petition, there are several reports that raise red flags concerning the safety of the autopilot mechanism used by Tesla. Many of the crashes involving sudden acceleration occurred while drivers were in the act of parking their Tesla cars. Moreover, the rate of complaints regarding sudden acceleration in Tesla vehicles was higher than those in other vehicles with similar technology. There are ongoing inquiries to determine whether a defect in the Tesla system triggered the sudden acceleration in these incidents.
In June 2020, a lawsuit against Tesla accused the company of implementing faulty safety features when an airbag failed to deploy during a car crash in Maryland. When another vehicle struck Tesla-owners Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, the Edwards’ Tesla crashed into a guardrail on the I-95 Interstate. Upon collision, none of the airbags deployed. Had the airbags functioned properly, several injuries could have been prevented. The accident left the driver with severe brain damage and other injuries.
This incident is believed to be the first lawsuit involving the car’s faulty airbag deployment. Tesla has continued to promote its Model 3 as “the safest car ever built” despite another indication of a significant flaw in the design and operation of its safety features.
In the same Maryland accident, in addition to airbag deployment failure, the seat belt did not properly restrain the passenger. The passenger’s head slammed forward, causing serious brain injury. The lawsuit against Tesla alleges that the car was unreasonably dangerous because of a faulty seat belt restraint mechanism.
Tesla has issued various recalls over issues involving seatbelts. This includes a recall of over 800,000 Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles with a seatbelt warning malfunction and a recall of over 24,000 Model 3 vehicles over issues involving rear seatbelt anchors.
Levy Konigsberg is nationally regarded for its representation of plaintiffs in personal injury litigation. We are committed to helping victims of negligence recover damages and obtain justice. If you have been injured while driving or riding in a Tesla vehicle, or were involved with an accident caused by a Tesla vehicle, our attorneys want to help. Please call us at (800) 315-3806 or submit an email inquiry above to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
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