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Navigating Liability Issues For Autonomous Vehicles


At present, there are no truly autonomous vehicles. In terms of the marketing, the usage of the term autonomous has led to some issues for automakers. Today, vehicle corporations like Tesla state that their vehicles have advanced driver assist and safety features. They are not strictly autonomous. Those who cause accidents while failing to pay attention to the road are liable when they injure or kill someone. In some states, manslaughter charges have been filed against drivers who caused accidents while using Tesla’s driver assist. While Tesla may call their feature an autopilot, they do stress that drivers who use their vehicles maintain control of the vehicle at all times.

In the case mentioned above, the driver was not paying attention to the road when the accident occurred. Tesla’s autopilot ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle ending the lives of the occupants. While the driver may want to hold Tesla accountable for the accident, the duty of care in auto accident cases makes it clear that the driver is generally liable for these crashes. However, there are cases in which Tesla’s autopilot has been blamed for car crashes. These cases generally involve specific allegations that the autopilot malfunctioned.

Tesla’s autopilot blamed for death of driver, passenger 

This accident occurred in California. The family of a couple who was killed in a Tesla Model S allege that the vehicle was being operated as intended when the accident occurred. Such an allegation was absent in the manslaughter case mentioned above. In this case, the family alleges that the Tesla sped up when the couple attempted to brake. Their vehicle smashed into the back of a tractor-trailer killing both occupants.

In this case, the family is alleging that the autopilot malfunctioned at a crucial moment. However, we are only in the very early stages of the lawsuit, so we don’t know how Tesla will respond. An investigation is being conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but no formal conclusions have been reached. At present, we only have a lawsuit from the family stating that the vehicle was being used as intended, the driver was in control of the car, and the vehicle sped up when it should have braked.

When the Tesla slammed into the back of the vehicle, it was equipped with a crash avoidance system that may have malfunctioned at a key moment. This may be actionable, but it would be a stronger allegation if the vehicle’s autopilot wholly malfunctioned causing the crash. Otherwise, the plaintiff would also be partly liable for hitting the accelerator when they should have hit the brake.

Autonomous vehicle accidents are complex. However, one key allegation that must be present in a successful lawsuit is that the vehicle is being used as intended by the manufacturer.

Talk to a Florida Auto Product Liability Lawyer Today 

Halpern, Santos & Pinkert have the experience you need to file a complex auto liability lawsuit against a car manufacturer. Call our Florida personal injury attorneys today to schedule a free consultation and we can begin discussing your allegations immediately.



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