Many car buyers in Illinois and around the country choose Tesla vehicles because they want to spend less money on gas and do their part to protect the environment, but others are drawn to the company’s products because they offer semi-autonomous driving systems that cannot be found anywhere else. The Austin-based electric carmaker claims that its Autopilot feature allows its vehicles to drive themselves, but a series of deadly accidents involving cars that had the feature engaged when they crashed have led to product liability lawsuits and congressional demands for an investigation.
Indiana man sues
The latest defective product lawsuit involving Tesla’s self-driving system was filed by an Indiana man in connection with a December 2019 accident that claimed the life of his wife and left him with a broken back and leg. According to court papers, the coupe’s Tesla Model 3 struck a stationary fire truck while the Autopilot system was engaged. The National Highway Safety Administration began an investigation in August 2021 after a string of accidents involving Tesla cars and SUVs striking emergency vehicles with the Autopilot feature switched on.
Lawmakers ask FTC to investigate
Questions about Tesla’s Autopilot claims have also been raised in Congress. Just two days after NHTSA launched its investigation, two senators called on the Federal Trade Commission to check Tesla’s advertising for possibly violating laws that forbid deceptive and unfair practices. One of the senators calling for an investigation said Tesla’s marketing campaigns give consumers a false sense of security and accused Elon Musk of making statements that showed a complete disregard for the safety of road users.
When allegedly defective products injure dozens or even hundreds of consumers, the product liability lawsuits filed against the manufacturer involved are sometimes consolidated into class actions. Injured consumers may choose to join a class instead of pursuing their own lawsuit to reduce their legal expenses, but it is not always a wise decision. That is because the damages awarded in class actions may not adequately compensate consumers who suffered far more serious injures than other class members.