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Tesla Faces a Potentially Major Autopilot Death Case in California

November 30, 2022

According to a news article published on, Tesla could face criminal and civil trials concerning a fatal accident allegedly caused by one of its vehicles on Autopilot. One trial's jurors will answer who will ultimately be held responsible for deaths caused by self-driving cars. The lawsuit alleges that a 27-year-old limousine driver's Tesla Model S exited a southern California freeway, ran a red light, and crashed into a Honda Civic. A couple riding in the Honda Civic was tragically killed in the collision.  

Law enforcement accident investigators stated that the Tesla autopilot system, which controls speed, steering, and braking, was on at the time of the fatal accident. Tesla is not facing criminal charges in the case. However, the civil trial might shape public perceptions of Tesla and could determine the legal standards concerning self-driving vehicles and crash liability.

Georgetown University Law School Professor Edward Walters, an expert in self-driving vehicle law, asked, "Who's at fault, man or machine?" He also stated that criminal cases involving fatal accidents involving self-driving technology might make it difficult for prosecutors to assign blame to the driver. In one criminal case, the defendant's lawyer stated that his client shouldn't have been criminally charged after his Tesla on AutoPilot struck a vehicle and killed that vehicle's passengers. State prosecutors are arguing that the Tesla driver should have used the vehicle's brakes to reduce the car's speed.

The victim's family is also filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla. 

Plaintiff's attorney stated that Tesla's marketing and spokespeople encourage AutoPilot drivers to be less attentive while AutoPilot is in use. Moreover, the attorney for the plaintiffs believes that Tesla knows the dangers of its AutoPilot system and continues to fail at warning users to stay alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel while operating an AutoPilot-equipped Tesla. A class action lawsuit that was filed in San Francisco alleges that Tesla markets its AutoPilot feature as Full Self-Driving technology, which is deceptive and misleads prospective owners. 

Tesla is now facing growing questions over the company's malfunctioning Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated several investigations into Tesla AutoPilot-activated vehicles that crashed while AutoPilot was activated. Some Tesla AutoPilot-activated vehicles crashed into parked emergency vehicles causing multiple injuries and one fatality.

The Department of Justice is also investigating Tesla for potential criminal charges over the company's self-driving claims. Tesla claims on its website that its driver-assistance systems are not 100% self-driving and requires the driver to supervise the vehicle.

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Category: Auto Accidents

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.