Yesterday, we learned an important lesson about safety issues in car design. In recent years, we have seen a number of design and “smart” features that have jeopardized the lives of those in a vehicle. Yesterday, we learned about the horrific death of the driver of a car with “futuristic” design features and, possibly, with other technological failures.
Years ago, I heard an elderly man say that he would only buy a car that was stripped down of new options and gadgets. He believed that all of the gadgets and bells and whistles were just more things that could break or break down. At the time, I thought it was a funny antiquated theory. Today, it raises a number of questions.
Yesterday, in Broward County, Florida, the family of a 48-year-old anesthesiologist, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in which they claim that Tesla’s door handle design was responsible for his death. The man was driving a hired 2016 Tesla Model S. The media have reported that his car veered off the road for unknown reasons. He overcorrected the steering and caused the car to cross three lanes of traffic at a speed as high as 145km/h before it crashed into a palm tree.
Tesla officials stated that no car could withstand a high-speed crash of this kind.
When first responders arrived on the scene, the deceased was alive and trying to get out of the vehicle. A police officer tried to assist him but was unable to open the doors of the car. The door handles on this vehicle were made to “retract” into the vehicle to create a sleek appearance when the car was started. They were designed to “auto-present” or pop out when one approached the door with a key fob. But the officer did not have a fob.
The vehicle fire originated in the large lithium-ion battery upon impact. Flames spread quickly, buy the doors could not be opened. “The vehicle burned for hours, even after the original fire was extinguished and the car had been towed.” The lawsuit claims that the man had sustained no internal injuries or broken bones in the crash. Smoke inhalation was the cause of death.
Tesla’s emergency guide says, “If the door handles do not function, open the door manually by reaching inside the window and using the interior door handle.” In this case, the instructions were of no value because neither the driver nor the police officer had a way to break the window. (Note: there have been many complaints that the Model S door handles malfunction in cold weather.)
Two items could have saved this man’s life. The first is a device that will cut a seat belt and break a window. For less than $10.00 one of these items can be kept inside a vehicle in case of emergency. The second item is the headrest. As we noted in a previous article, vehicle headrests are made to be removed and the base that fits into the seat can be used to break a window.
Buying Your Next Car
There are many safety issues built into some car designs and vulnerabilities in some of the smart technology in cars. The reason for discussing this lawsuit and accident is to suggest that it is more important than ever to investigate technology and mechanisms that allow you to exit a vehicle before purchasing.
When researching new vehicles, you will certainly want to examine fuel efficiency, crash safety, smart technologies for GPS directions, alert systems, and more. It is not enough to understand what new technologies can do. You also need to understand what happens when they fail, as well as what you can do if you become trapped. Research the safety features in a car and how they can help you in difficult situations. Finally, always take your car to a dealer when there is a recall.
Call Altizer Law, P.C.
If you or a loved one is injured in a car crash or other vehicle accident, through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your hurts and harms. Come to Altizer Law, P.C., for a free initial consultation about your accident. Bettina Altizer and her expert team have been helping people to recover losses from auto accidents and other crashes for more than 30 years. As a plaintiff’s attorney, we fight for you and we do not represent insurance companies. We know it’s about the money.