On July 6th, U.S. auto safety regulators announced that they had begun an investigation of the second crash involving a Tesla car with autopilot technology; where the first had resulted in a fatality in Florida. The accidents have placed the new technology under severe scrutiny, as there is some concern that the Tesla Autopilot system is at fault, in which case the auto manufacturer could be responsible for negligence and the injuries (along with wrongful death) involved in the accidents.

There is also some concern that there was driver error involved in the fatal accident, as the truck which hit the Tesla car made a left turn even though he didn’t have the right of way, and the truck driver may have been distracted. However, there is additional concern that Tesla—having known about this accident—did not release the details of it to the public in order to place others with the Autopilot feature on notice that there may be some errors associated with the system; errors that arguably amount to public safety concerns.


Tesla may now be facing at least one lawsuit alleging that its car should have recognized a trucking turning right in front of it—because that’s what a reasonable person using the technology could reasonably expect. Not only is there a potential design defect, but there could also be a class action lawsuit concerning a loss of value for car owners who purchased these vehicles.

New Territory

Yet there are others who point out that, legally speaking, this technology would be establishing new territory when it comes to personal injury and product defects-related litigation. How Tesla’s claim—the claim that these cars and this technology makes driving overall safer than traditional driving—will affect litigation in this area still remains to be seen. Tesla does not, as of now require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while using autopilot, nor does it have a system in place to ensure that drivers are watching the road while the car is in use (rather than completely relying on the autopilot technology)—two aspects of this technology that could get the company in trouble in court.  As one article noted, these cars can be problematic because they almost lull a driver into a “state of complacency.”

Negligence & Wrongful Death Attorneys

When there is an accident that results in injuries and/or fatalities, there are always medical expenses and individuals left with pain and suffering. Many times—in order to ensure that a defect is corrected and a system is made safe for future drivers—litigation becomes inevitable, especially in order for justice to be done for the accident at hand.

For assistance understanding negligence and proving it when seeking compensation in a claim or civil action, contact a personal injury attorney with our firm as soon as possible after an accident.

feature image via Flickr