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Is Tesla Responsible for Fatal Autopilot Accident?

Posted by Jeremy Rosenthal | Jun 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

Self-driving cars are no longer just a feature available in science fiction movies. Vehicles like Tesla have driver assist and auto-pilot functions that allow drivers to map their route and let the car do the driving. Unfortunately, problems with the autopilot system can cause fatal accidents. A lawsuit against Tesla was filed in California for a fatal 2018 accident in Japan. 

Tesla Model X Striking and Killing a Pedestrian  

On April 29, 2018, Yoshihiro Umeda, a husband and father, was standing on the side of an expressway near Tokyo. The driver of a Tesla was approaching, using the autopilot feature and dozing off. A vehicle in front of the Tesla changed lanes to avoid the group but the Tesla accelerated, striking and killing 44-year-old Umeda. 

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the dead man's estate and surviving wife and child of Umeda. The complaint suggests, “Tesla will expectedly lay all of the blame for this tragic accident on this individual,” referring to the driver who had fallen asleep. The basis for the lawsuit includes the following: 

  1. The accident was caused by a defect of Tesla's autopilot technology and driver assistance features; 
  2. The autopilot function failed to recognize the pedestrians ahead and failed to engage the automatic emergency braking system; and
  3. Alternative methods could have been used to reduce the risk of an accident. 

The complaint also states, "Tesla should be held culpable for its conduct and acts committed in marketing its vehicles with reckless disregard for motorists and the general public."

Fatal Self-Driving Uber Accident

Last year, we wrote about a 2018 crash where a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The vehicle had a back-up driver behind the wheel. The driver was supposed to be watching the road and could take control if the self-driving system failed. However, the back-up driver was watching “The Voice,” on her phone at the time of the accident.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, the self-driving software did not properly identify the person as a pedestrian, and the vehicle failed to slow down, stop, or avoid the person walking across the road.  

Wrongful Death Claims After a Fatal Accident

When someone is injured in a car accident, the injury victim can file a personal injury claim for damages. However, after a fatal accident, the deceased is no longer able to take legal action to hold the negligent parties liable. Instead, a wrongful death claim allows surviving family members to seek compensation for the loss of a loved one. 

In Colorado, wrongful death lawsuits generally have to be filed within 2 years of the date of the death. Depending on the situation, the spouse of the deceased, heirs, or a designated beneficiary can file a wrongful death claim. Damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit may include: 

  • Funeral expenses, 
  • Burial costs, 
  • Loss of the decedent's services, 
  • Loss of the decedent's income, and
  • Loss of the benefits. 

Help Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Colorado

If you have any questions about a fatal accident that resulted in the death of a family member, you can consult with an experienced Denver auto accident lawyer. Please do not hesitate to contact today at 303-642-8888 for a free consultation. We are here waiting for you.

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenthal

Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is dedicated to helping his clients seek just compensation for their injuries regardless of the lengths he has to go to or the distances he may have to travel in order to get it.


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