As Tesla Crash Victim's Family Hires Lawyer, Automaker Places Blame on Driver

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
as tesla crash victim s family hires lawyer automaker places blame on driver

Tesla could soon find itself on the receiving end of a wrongful death lawsuit. The family of Walter Huang, the driver of a Tesla Model X that crashed into a concrete highway divider in Mountain View, California in March, has sought out the assistance of a law firm to “explore legal options.”

The crash occurred as the vehicle travelled along US-101 in Autopilot mode. Tesla released two statements following the fatal wreck, divulging that the driver had not touched the steering wheel in the six seconds prior to impact. While company claims the responsibility for the crash rests on the driver, law firm Minami Tamaki LLP faults Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system for the death.

In a blog post, the firm writes that a “preliminary review has uncovered complaints by other Tesla drivers of navigational errors by the Autopilot feature, and other lawsuits have also made this complaint. The firm believes Tesla’s Autopilot feature is defective and likely caused Huang’s death, despite Tesla’s apparent attempt to blame the victim of this terrible tragedy.”

The family intends to file a wrongful death suit, the law firm claims.

In response to news reports of Huang’s family hiring legal aid, Tesla released a statement (via Bloomberg). The message claims there was no broken promise — that the victim knew his Autopilot system was not perfect, and that the system itself warned the driver to take back the wheel. Following a deadly 2016 Autopilot crash in Florida, Tesla pumped up the messaging around Autopilot, making it clearer than before that the system las limits.

From Tesla’s statement:

According to the family, Mr. Huang was well aware that Autopilot was not perfect

and, specifically, he told them it was not reliable in that exact location, yet he

nonetheless engaged Autopilot at that location. The crash happened on a clear day

with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this

accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road,

despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so.

Minami Tamaki claims its preliminary review “indicates that the navigation system of the Tesla may have misread the lane lines on the roadway, failed to detect the concrete median, failed to brake the car, and drove the car into the median.”

The law firm notes that the concrete highway median was “missing its crash attenuator guard, as Caltrans failed to replace the guard after an earlier crash there. The lack of a guard potentially increased Huang’s injuries.”

Huang’s family said he complained to Tesla that his vehicle behaved strangely while driving in Autopilot mode along that stretch of highway, and that the vehicle attempting to drive off the road. Tesla claims Huang’s complaint related to a navigation issue. Following the crash, a Tesla owner who travels that same stretch on his way to work released a video showing his car steering towards the concrete divider while in Autopilot mode. The vehicle seemed to follow the wrong painted line while approaching the divider, placing it on a collision course.

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have opened investigations into the crash.

[Image: Tesla]

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2 of 43 comments
  • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 13, 2018

    It appears to me that someone is going to have to prove said driver was incapable of taking control of the car in order to win this suit. If said driver intentionally let the car crash, then it is TOTALLY on the driver.

  • JimC2 JimC2 on Apr 14, 2018

    If anything, the people who were stuck in traffic should collectively sue his estate for lost time, being late for work, psychological trauma of witnessing a car wreck, etc. Let his family's lawyers chew on that one for a while.

  • Inside Looking Out I see it as gladiator races - only one survives in virtual world.
  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.
  • El scotto Y'all are overthinking this. Find some young hard-charging DA seeking the TV limelight to lock this kid up. Heck, have John Boehner come up from Cincy to help the young DA get his political career going. Better yet, have the young DA spin this as hard as he or she can; I'm the candidate for Law and Order, I defied our go-easy office and leadership to get this identified criminal locked up. Oh this could be spun more than a hyper active kid's top.Now I'd do some consulting work for Little Kings Original Cream Ale and Skyline Chili.
  • El scotto Pondering if he has a clean brandy snifter. Well but, ah, I mean the original Grand Wagoneer was fully loaded and had a V-8. The original Grand Wagoneer had an almost cult-like following with a certain type of woman. Attractive, educated high earning women; or those that put on the appearances of being that way.Our esteemed HerR DOKtor Perfessor again shows how ignorant he is of the American market. What he deems "bread-vans on stilts" are highly coveted by significant others that are also highly coveted. The new Grand Cherokee with the new well engineered V-6 will sell as well as the ones from the 80s some of us get wistful over. The only real question will be: LL Bean or Orvis edition?
  • El scotto Well, I've had cats that are smarted than a great many members of congress. I rather doubt that any of the congresspeople Matt named are engineers, finance people or project managers. Ya know, professionals you call in to get a job done.Today is Wednesday, this will be out of the 36 hour news cycle by Friday. Oh it might get mentioned again on OCT 6. Unless there are cute animals to put on TV that day.