Tesla Autopilot Recall May Impact Company’s Defense in Crash Lawsuits

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What Does the Tesla Autopilot Recall Mean for Injured Plaintiffs’ Lawsuits?

What Does the Tesla Autopilot Recall Mean for Injured Plaintiffs’ Lawsuits?

Dec 15, 2023

Tesla has recalled more than 2 million vehicles in the United States citing safety concerns, according to a report from NBC News. The recall was announced following a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found that Tesla’s autopilot safety system was “not sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

What Does the Tesla Autopilot Recall Mean for Injured Plaintiffs’ Lawsuits?

The massive Tesla recall includes nearly all of the company’s cars currently on the road in the United States, NBC said.

What Models Did Tesla Recall?

The list of Tesla models covered in the recall includes:

  • 2012-2023 Model S
  • 2016-2023 Model X
  • 2017-2023 Model 3
  • 2020-2023 Model Y equipped with Autosteer (a feature Tesla had marketed as “traffic-aware cruise control”)

“In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, the prominence and scope of the feature’s controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse,” the NHTSA recall said.

Tesla’s Autosteer function is designed to maintain a set speed or distinguish a specific following distance for a driver’s vehicle while traveling on roadways. The feature is also purported to detect lane markings and the presence of other vehicles (although Tesla has issued warnings to consumers noting that hands should always remain on the steering wheel and drivers should “always be prepared to take immediate action”).

The Transportation Department’s two-year investigation found that Tesla’s touted function:

“… does not maintain responsibility for vehicle operation and is unprepared to intervene as necessary or fails to recognize when Autosteer is canceled or not engaged,
there may be an increased risk of a crash.”

Additionally, the NHTSA Tesla recall concluded that limitations in the Autopilot system may:

  • Give drivers a false sense of security
  • Be easily misused in certain dangerous situations (particularly when the company’s technology may be unable to safely navigate the road)

Owners of Tesla vehicles included in the recall will be informed via mail. The actual Tesla recall, however, will be completed through an “over-the-air software update.” Said update will take effect immediately and give drivers more warnings in real time whenever they are not paying attention to the road while the Autopilot’s “Autosteer” function is turned on, NBC News said.

Tesla’s over-the-air recall update will also incorporate:

  • Additional controls and alerts for drivers
  • Warnings for drivers which encourage them to “adhere to their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged,” per the NHTSA’s report.

The Autosteer alerts will be given while vehicles are engaged and on the road, reminding drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to their surroundings, a statement from the NHTSA said.

Why is Tesla Recalling 2 Million Vehicles?

Why is Tesla Recalling 2 Million Vehicles
The NHTSA’s Tesla investigation began in August 2021 following 11 crashes linked to the company’s Autosteer function.

“In total, the agency reviewed nearly 1,000 crashes where autopilot was initially alleged to have been used, and focused on 322 autopilot-involved crashes,” NBC said.

Those Tesla Autopilot car accidents included “frontal impacts and impacts from potential inadvertent disengagement of the system,” the NHTSA’s report confirmed.

Tesla reportedly cooperated with the Transportation Department’s investigation, meeting with the agency “several times” over the next two years, according to NBC.

How Many Tesla Cars Have Been Recalled?

In February 2023, Tesla issued a recall on over 360,000 vehicles due to a version of its “full self-driving” software potentially increasing the risk of crashes, according to the NHTSA.

The NHTSA said via a statement to NBC News that its most recent investigation into the electric vehicle maker “remains open as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

“Automated technology holds great promise for improving safety but only when it is deployed responsibly; today’s action is an example of improving automated systems by prioritizing safety,” the NHTSA added.

A December 2021 NHTSA investigation looked into whether certain Tesla vehicles allowed drivers to play video games on a center console touchscreen while traveling along roadways. Tesla’s “Passenger Play” could potentially lead to distracted driving accidents, the investigation concluded.

Bloomberg Report: Tesla Recall ‘Threatens’ Company’s Defense in Crash Lawsuits

A report from Bloomberg noted that the recall to more than 2 million Tesla vehicles could actually “bolster” civil claims from injured plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits over the Autopilot function being defective.

“Tesla Inc.’s biggest vehicle recall ever threatens to hurt the company’s defense in several high-profile lawsuits it faces over crashes linked to Autopilot,” Bloomberg said.

Tesla has reportedly been sued over a dozen times for crashes related to its Autopilot technology. A report from The Messenger stated that the company faces “growing legal challenges” following the massive government recall. The multiple civil lawsuits against Tesla which have already been brought include claims for injuries and deaths allegedly related to Autopilot crashes.

“Several of those lawsuits are filed by individuals who were involved in crashes that allegedly involved Autopilot, while others are brought forward by the families of people who died in crashes that they say were related to the driver-assistance system. Consumers and investors have also sued Tesla over its marketing of Autopilot and its Full Self-Driving, alleging the company has engaged in deceptive and misleading practices,” The Messenger report said.

A number of Autopilot cases – one pertaining to a fatal Tesla Model 3 crash which occurred in Miami in 2019 – are scheduled for trial in 2024.

Can I Sue After a Tesla Autopilot Crash Injury?

Can I Sue After a Tesla Autopilot Crash Injury?
A common question from Dordulian Law Group’s car accident clients is, “Can I sue after a Tesla Autopilot accident injury?

Liability in Tesla Autopilot crashes is often considered a grey area under personal injury law. Injured plaintiffs with civil claims could potentially sue the car manufacturer under a product liability lawsuit or the at-fault driver under a personal injury/car accident lawsuit.

In January 2022, federal charges were filed for the first time against a driver who reportedly ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena while his Tesla Model S was on Autopilot. The driver was charged with two felony counts of vehicular manslaughter after crashing into a Honda Civic and causing the two fatalities at the Los Angeles intersection in December 2019.

With the recall of over 2 million Tesla vehicles, more plaintiffs injured in Autopilot crashes are expected to file civil claims seeking damages for losses suffered, such as:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medical care costs (past and future)
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Punitive damages
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Reduced future earning capacity

If you’ve experienced a Tesla Autopilot car accident injury, contact Dordulian Law Group (DLG) today for a free and confidential consultation by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM.

If you believe you have a personal injury case and wish to pursue a claim, don’t hesitate to contact our award-winning expert attorneys online or by phone today.

Los Angeles Tesla Autopilot Crash Car Accident Injury Lawyer Consultation

If you’ve been injured in a Tesla car wreck, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you secure justice through maximum financial compensation. DLG’s Glendale, California, Tesla Autopilot crash attorneys are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about filing a civil lawsuit for damages.

Contact us today by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM. You pay nothing until we win your car accident case – DLG’s No Win/No Fee Guarantee means there’s never any upfront or out-of-pocket charges for our expert and aggressive legal representation. We fight tirelessly to help injured car crash victims secure the justice they deserve.

Reach out to a dedicated member of our team today to learn more.

Read More from Dordulian Law Group on the 2023 Tesla Autopilot Recall

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