When discerning drivers buy high-end cars, it is not merely for the luxury or status that comes with driving them. In many cases, the vehicles boast safety features that both reduce the risk of a crash and better protect drivers in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, a vehicle’s price isn’t always an indicator of its safety and crashworthiness.
A good example seems to be Tesla’s Model S, the electricity-powered car running on lithium ion batteries. While the car is in many ways safer than others on the market, it also appears to have a potentially deadly problem: battery fires. In recent years, there have been numerous reports of batteries catching fire soon after a crash, being very difficult to extinguish and reigniting spontaneously several more times.
Two examples occurred within the last year in Florida. In May 2018, three teenagers were involved in a high-speed crash into a wall while traveling in a Tesla. Two of the teens died and the third suffered injuries. After the crash, the vehicle’s battery burst into flames, requiring several hundred gallons of water and foam to extinguish.
In February 2019, another Florida driver was killed in a Tesla when he lost control of the car and crashed into trees in the median. The resulting fire burned his body “beyond recognition.” After the crash scene was cleared, the car was towed to an impound lot. Over the next 24 hours or so, its battery reignited at least three more times.
Unlike gasoline-fueled fires, the chemical fires that burn in Tesla batteries can be especially difficult to extinguish. The fact that they can also reignite (due to stored up heat and energy) makes them even more dangerous.
After any serious auto accident, it is important to understand how/why the crash occurred, who caused it and what other factors may have exacerbated it. When there is a known or suspected problem with the vehicle’s design or performance (such as a high risk of battery fires), victims and their families may be able to hold the at-fault driver liable in a personal injury lawsuit and pursue damages against the automaker in a product liability compliant.
To learn more about your rights and options after a devastating accident, please discuss your case with an attorney in your area.