California Tesla Crash Leads to Federal Investigation

matthew-hamilton-135738-copy-300x200On March 23, a San Mateo resident, Wei Huang, 38, passed away after his Tesla Model X collided with a median on Highway 101. The initial collision caused a three-vehicle crash with a Mazda and Audi. The Tesla sustained a significant amount of damage and the exposed lithium ion battery caught fire. In order to combat the fire, local firefighters used the available water source. They also contacted the Palo Alto-based Tesla, and engineers disassembled a part of the car battery on the interstate. The engine was closely monitored afterward since the batteries can reignite for up to 24 hours after cooling.

Accident Leads to Investigation

Following the fatal crash, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board sent two investigators to review the accident. The NTSB is interested in why the crash occurred, why the battery caught fire, and the procedures used to contain the situation afterward. It is unclear, as of now, whether Tesla’s Autopilot feature was in control of the vehicle at the time or whether Huang was driving.

Tesla’s Response

Tesla published a response on its blog on March 27. The company announced that it is cooperating with the investigation to uncover the vehicle’s data. However, due to the extensive and unprecedented damage caused by the accident, the company has yet to be able to obtain the vehicle’s logs. It did not say whether the vehicle was on Autopilot or not at the time.

The auto manufacturer took steps to reassure Tesla drivers and others that the vehicles are still safe. It stated that Tesla drivers, using Autopilot, had traveled that stretch of highway about 85,000 times since 2015 and about 20,000 in 2018. There has never been an accident in that area, that Tesla is aware of. According to the company, every day there are about 200 successful Autopilot trips on that area of interstate.

Prior Tesla Crashes

This is NTSB’s second investigation regarding a Tesla vehicle this year. The organization is examining an accident that occurred on Jan. 22, which involved a Tesla Model S rear-ending a fire truck parked on the freeway.

If NTSB concludes that Tesla’s Autopilot feature contributed to either of these crashes, it would not be the first time. In September 2017, the federal agency determined the feature was part of the reasons for a fatal crash in Florida in 2016. In that crash, the Autopilot and driver did not see a semi-truck making a left turn in front of the Tesla, which then collided with the truck.

Were You Injured in a Tesla Crash?

If you were injured in a crash with a Tesla and you believe it was a design defect, not the driver’s fault, contact Brod Law Firm today. Tesla vehicles and their Autopilot feature are still relatively new, and each accident provides a wealth of information. Your situation may require an in-depth investigation to determine who is responsible. If a feature of the vehicle was all or part of the reason for the crash, then you need to speak with your attorney about whom to hold responsible. If the Tesla driver was at fault for the accident, then a personal injury lawyer can guide you through the insurance claim process against the driver’s policy.

Contact Brod Law Firm today to learn more about your rights and options after a car accident.

(image courtesy of Matthew Hamilton)