Are Self-Driving Cars Unreasonably Dangerous Products?

Hits: 10

Recently, a motorcyclist was fatally injured when a Tesla crashed into them. At the time of the accident, the Tesla’s autopilot feature was turned on. This is not the first time a fatal accident has occurred while Tesla’s autopilot feature was activated. Though we cannot know with any certainty what the driver was doing at the time of the crash, we know he wasn’t paying close attention to driving and understand that there appears to be an overconfidence in Tesla’s autopilot capabilities. Unfortunately, there have been disturbing reports of Teslas driving without drivers alongside reports of drivers sleeping while using Tesla’s autopilot features. Tragically, the reliance on autopilot seems to be costing the lives of others. Although the laws regarding autopilot features are not quite up to date with our technology, with the amount of lives lost in autopilot accidents, the conversation seems to be one of growing importance.


Under Utah law, multiple parties can be at fault for an accident. When multiple parties are at fault, liability is apportioned. In a case where liability is apportioned, it may look something like this: Party A is 30% at fault, Party B is 20% at fault, and Party C is 50% at fault. In a case like this, each party will pay a portion of the damages proportionate to the amount of fault they have. So, if the settlement is $100,000, Party A will pay $30,000, Party B will pay $20,000, and Party C will pay $50,000. In the aforementioned case, there were three defendants found liable. However, the plaintiff can also be found partially liable for their injuries. If the plaintiff was found liable for their injuries, they would lose a portion of their settlement proportionate to the amount of fault they have. If it’s decided that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault, they cannot be awarded damages.


In the most simple terms, the “creator” of a product can be held liable for any damages the product causes due to defects that occurred anywhere in the supply chain. Note the quotations around creator. We’re being intentionally vague here because liability can fall anywhere on the supply chain. There can be manufacturing defects, design defects, or marketing defects. When it comes to holding companies accountable for their dangerous product, there’s not one party, such as the CEO, who’s always liable for the defect. In fact, many different parties can be liable for defects that make a product unreasonably dangerous.


The driver likely has some fault here. Though some Teslas have been widely regarded as “self-driving” cars, the driver knew, or reasonably should have known, that he needed to keep his eyes on the road, and be ready to jump in when the car’s autopilot mode makes a mistake. To some extent, Tesla automobiles notify the driver that they need to also be paying attention while the car is driving. Though there aren’t many details available about this particular accident, some conditions may increase the driver’s liability, while others may decrease the driver’s liability. For example, if the driver looked away for a split second when he crashed into the motorcyclist, he would be less liable than he would be if he was texting and driving or sleeping at the time of the accident.


Though the driver very likely would have some fault in a case such as the aforementioned, Tesla may also have some liability here since it could be argued that the design of the Tesla and Tesla’s autopilot features make the car unreasonably dangerous. This would be considered to be a design defect. An attorney may argue that Tesla’s autopilot feature encourages drivers to be complacent while behind the wheel, making the car unreasonably dangerous. Basically, something about the car’s design has made it an unreasonably dangerous product when it’s being used as intended. Even though Tesla discourages their drivers from relying solely on autopilot, the autopilot can still be unreasonably dangerous. It may be argued that the design itself encourages drivers to pay less attention while driving, and this is leading to injury or death.


Tesla’s cars with autopilot capabilities may also be vulnerable to product liability lawsuits due to marketing defects. Marketing defects can occur when a product does not come with adequate warnings or instructions, or it is advertised or implied that it can be used in ways that are in reality dangerous. Tesla likes to sit on the fence when it comes to their cars’ capabilities. On one hand, they appear to be content with being known as the company with self-driving cars. It’s good for business. On the other hand, it seems as though they don’t want to bolster their claims too much, for fear of over-selling their cars’ ability to drive themselves. If a personal injury attorney could successfully argue that Tesla had over-sold the car’s ability to drive itself and that led to someone being killed, then Tesla may be found liable in a wrongful death suit.


People have lost their lives in accidents involving Tesla’s autopilot function. Though the motorcyclist’s name has not been released at the time of writing this, the motorcyclist was a person with family and friends. People are undoubtedly grieving the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. If you have a Tesla with autopilot features, please remember that it’s important to keep your eyes on the road, and your hands on the wheel, at all times. Do not be the reason a family is learning to live without their loved one.

Six Ways to Stay Safe During Surgery

by | Jan 19, 2023 | blog,Medical Malpractice,Safety,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

Tips from the best medical malpractice attorneys in Utah  Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional makes a mistake that injures a patient. But not...

Are Employers Responsible for What Their Employees Do?

by | Jan 10, 2023 | Premises Liability,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

When injuries occur while at work, some wonder whether or not their employers can be held responsible for their injuries. Though a worker’s compensation claim will...

Five Safety Tips for Driving During a Storm

by | Jan 5, 2023 | Safety,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

 Many states see an increase in reckless driving during the summer months because the roads offer the perfect driving conditions. However, the same cannot be said...

I’m Being Sued for a Car Accident. What Now?

by | Jan 3, 2023 | Auto Accidents,Car Accident,Safety,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

Let’s say you’ve been in a car crash and it’s been determined that you’re the at-fault party. As if that isn’t stressful enough, you’ve just been informed that you’re...

Is that New Fad Diet a Liability?

by | Dec 29, 2022 | Educational,Empowerment,Product Liability,Safety,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

New year, new you, new fad diet. We see them all the time but not every fitness plan is safe. In fact there are many people who are marketing a diet plan that could be...

Can You Be Sued for Shooting a Trespasser?

by | Dec 27, 2022 | Educational,Premises Liability,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

If you’ve watched Home Alone, you’ve perhaps thought about taking the law into your own hands, vigilante style. Though Home Alone has a special place in the hearts of...

Protect Your Home (from Lawsuits) This Holiday

by | Dec 22, 2022 | Educational,Safety,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

If you’re like most people, you get the warm and fuzzies when a joyful group of Christmas carollers show up at your doorstep to bring you a little holiday cheer....

ELI5: What’s a Lawsuit?

by | Dec 15, 2022 | blog,ELI5 - Explain like I'm 5,Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

A lot of people believe that lawsuits are magical proceedings that make one party filthy rich while bankrupting the other party. Thus, the announcement, “I’m suing!”...

Would We Take Harry and Marv’s Case?

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Texas Law,Utah Law | 0 Comments

Did you wonder about whether or not the burglars in Home Alone could sue Kevin McCallister for their injuries? When it comes to Christmas movies, few millennials and...