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Texas Tesla Autopilot Crash Sheds Light on Complicated Liability Issues

Is NHTSA Getting Ready to Formally Investigate Tesla's Autopilot?

A Texas man whose Tesla Model S recently crashed says he doesn’t plan to sue the automaker, but his insurance company might. Mark Molthan, the driver, says his car was on Autopilot on August 7, 2016 when he reached into his glove box to get a cloth to clean the dashboard. The car failed to navigate a bend on Highway 175 in rural Kaufman, Texas, went off the road and struck a cable guardrail multiple times. Molthan escaped with a bloody nose, but was still shaken.

He said he used Autopilot all the time on that stretch of the highway. But now, he says, it’s “extremely dangerous” and that it just gave him a false sense of security. His vehicle missed the curve and drove straight into the guardrail. The car didn’t stop and actually continued to accelerate after the first impact into the guardrail, he said. Federal regulatorsare investigating Molthan’s crash and his auto insurance carrier, a unit of Chubb, has sent Tesla a notice letter requesting joint inspection of the vehicle, which has been deemed a total loss. Tesla has said that it is looking into the cause of the Texas crash.

Who is to Blame?

This particular Tesla crash is not as serious as a fatal crash that federal regulators are still investigation. But, it still highlights the challenges ahead in determining who is to blame when autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles are involved in these types of accidents.

Insurance claims involving Tesla’s Autopilot are still largely unchartered territory, in part because driver behavior is still a contributing factor. Tesla has continued to stress that the Autopilot in its vehicles is only an assist feature and that drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel prepared to take over at any time.

A fatal crash in Florida of a Tesla Model X spurred a federal investigation. Non-fatal accidents similar to the one in Texas were also reported in Montana, Pennsylvania and China. As accidents involving Autopilot increase, there will be more questions about fault and liability. Is the car to blame, the driver or the failed technology?

Protecting Your Rights

If you have been injured in a Tesla Autopilot crash or in a crash involving a semi- autonomous or autonomous vehicle, it is important that you understand your legal rights. Even though the laws involving autonomous vehicles are still evolving, you still have the right to seek compensation for the injuries, damages and losses you have sustained. Anexperienced auto defect lawyer who is knowledgeable about issues surrounding autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options.

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