California Tesla Driver First-Ever to be Charged in a Fatal Autopilot Crash

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Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash Leads to First-Ever Felony Charges in California

Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash Leads to First-Ever Felony Charges in California

Jan 21, 2022

A California Tesla driver was charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter following a crash that killed two people while the vehicle was on Autopilot mode. The Tesla Model S reportedly ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena while on Autopilot, crashing into a Honda Civic and causing the two fatalities at an intersection in December 2019.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the defendant “appears to be the first person” charged with a felony in the United States for a fatal car accident involving a motorist who was operating a vehicle through a partially automated driving system. Los Angeles prosecutors reportedly filed the felony charges in October, but they were only made public earlier this week.

The AP also reported that the driver of the Tesla vehicle operated on Autopilot, Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, pleaded not guilty. Riad, a limousine service driver, is free on bail while the case is pending, according to the AP.

Two federal investigations are currently ongoing over Tesla’s Autopilot driving system which can control steering, braking, and speed, as the AP reports. One of the federal investigations involves Tesla’s video game function through some vehicles’ touchscreen systems, as we noted in an earlier blog.

The video game investigation, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), includes 580,000 Tesla electric cars and SUVs – model years 2017 through 2022. It comes following a complaint from a Tesla driver which alerted federal authorities that the “Passenger Play” video game system could be operated while some vehicles are in motion.

Fatal Tesla Autopilot Crash Leads to First-Ever Felony Charges in California

The criminal charges against the Tesla Autopilot driver come following a similar incident in Arizona which involved a vehicle being operated through a fully automated driving system. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver hired by rideshare company Uber to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads, according to the AP report. The Uber vehicle – an SUV with only a human backup driver on board – struck and killed a pedestrian.

But as the AP report also indicated, an estimated 765,000 Tesla electric vehicles are equipped with Autopilot in the United States, making the number of reported accidents as a result of the partially automated driving system quite rare. Moreover, a recent internal safety report for the fourth quarter of 2021 from Tesla indicated that the number of miles per accident on Autopilot versus off Autopilot was almost three times lower (i.e. safer).

According to Tesla:

In the 4th quarter, we recorded one crash for every 4.31 million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot technology (Autosteer and active safety features). For drivers who were not using Autopilot technology (no Autosteer and active safety features), we recorded one crash for every 1.59 million miles driven. By comparison, NHTSA’s most recent data shows that in the United States there is an automobile crash every 484,000 miles.”

The AP also reported that the criminal filing against Riad does not mention Autopilot. However, the NHTSA sent investigators to the crash site in 2019 and confirmed that the automated self-driving technology was in use at the time of the fatal car accident.

Riad’s preliminary hearing is reportedly set for February 23 in Los Angeles County.

Can I File a Lawsuit for Damages if I’m Injured in a Tesla Autopilot Crash?

Although the above mentioned charges are criminal, injured car accident victims may also wish to file their own separate civil claims for financial compensation. Civil lawsuits are filed in an effort to recover financial damages following a car accident injury. Such claims may be filed if the at-fault party was negligent or careless. A Tesla Autopilot accident may constitute negligence on the part of the driver who relied on the automated self-driving technology. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may be able to secure various damages in a Tesla Autopilot civil lawsuit.

Examples of common damages recovered in a car accident injury claim include:

  • Hospital expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Emotional distress

The statute of limitations on California car accident injury claims is typically two years from the date of the incident. However, this deadline may be shortened considerably in instances where a government or public entity is being sued. In such cases, the victim may only have six months to file a claim. Dordulian Law Group (DLG) encourages all car accident injury victims to file claims as soon as possible to ensure they are not barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

What Should I Do After a Tesla Autopilot Accident?

If you believe your accident was caused by a Tesla vehicle on Autopilot mode, there are certain steps you should take – particularly if you suffered an injury.

The first step in any motor vehicle accident is to evaluate the extent of any injuries. Even if you only believe your injury is minor, it is in your best interest to undergo a medical examination as soon as possible. Doing so will help provide documentation of your injury which can be necessary for a civil claim. Moreover, if you injury gets worse over time (which is a common occurrence after a car accident), it’s important to demonstrate that progression through medical records.

Some additional steps that are recommended following a car accident involving an injury include:

  • Call the police
  • Get contact information of at-fault driver
  • If possible, gather witness statements
  • Take photos and videos of the accident scene
  • Do not make a statement to anyone (including the insurance company) before speaking with a personal injury lawyer
  • Do not post info about your car accident injury on social media

For a list of DLG’s 10 Steps to Take After a Car Accident, click here.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Contact a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer Today

DLG’s experienced team of car accident lawyers are available 24/7 for free and confidential consultations. Contact us today at 818-322-4056. Whether your injury was minor or severe, you may be able to recover financial compensation if your car accident was due to another’s negligence.

DLG’s car accident lawyers have helped injured victims like you secure more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts. When you’re ready to take the first step towards obtaining justice for your car accident injury, we’re here to fight as your dedicated legal advocates. DLG’s personal injury attorneys will work aggressively on your behalf to secure the maximum financial damages award you deserve.

To hear what our clients have to say, visit our testimonials page.

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