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Tesla Door Handles Create Fiery Death Trap for Driver

Most people consider being trapped in a burning car one of their worst nightmares. For one man, however, this terrifying situation became a reality – and police were not able to help.

What Happened?

A 48-year-old anesthesiologist was driving his leased Tesla on a south Florida parkway. He lost control and crashed into a palm tree before his car’s battery allegedly caught fire. Soon after, a police officer tried to extract the man from the burning vehicle, but he was thwarted by the car’s futuristic door handles. A crowd looked on in terror as the car filled with smoke and flames, burning the man “beyond recognition.”

How Did Door Handles Cause This Man’s Death?

The handles of the Tesla Model S are designed to sink into the car for a sleek, even look. When the vehicle senses the driver’s fob, it “auto-presents” the handles to the driver, allowing the doors to be functional. In this emergency, though, the handles did not present themselves, rendering the doors useless during an officer’s intended rescue.  With retracted handles, the responding officer was unable to access the vehicle, and therefore could not help the driver escape.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit filed against Tesla on Oct. 10, the cause of the driver’s death was smoke inhalation. The driver did not sustain broken bones or internal injuries and lost his life to a non-fatal crash due to Tesla’s significant design flaw.

The surviving family’s attorney puts it best:

Fire engulfed the car and burned Dr. Awan beyond recognition – all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk.”

Did Tesla Know About the Problem?

Although Tesla has not yet commented on the accident, they likely knew about the problem. In 2015, Consumer Reports noted:

Our car reliability survey shows that doors, locks, and latches are the biggest trouble areas with Teslas and that the Model S has far higher than average rates of such problems.”

Many drivers were locked out of their cars in non-emergency situations long before this accident occurred.

What About the “Unreasonably Dangerous Fire Risk?”

Tesla has also been associated with electric vehicle fires in multiple accidents and lawsuits. On Oct. 8, the father of an 18-year-old teenager sued the company for a fatal explosion during an “entirely survivable” collision.

Tesla knew about this problem, too. CEO Elon Musk tweeted about it on April 23, 2019.

Will the Company Face Consequences?

Yes. Facing multiple wrongful death claims is a consequence within itself. Additionally, Tesla is undergoing criminal probes from the U.S. Justice Department, an investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other complaints and lawsuits.

If you have been harmed by Tesla, now is the time to act.

Our attorneys at Somera & Silva, LLP can help.

Call us at (561) 221-6802 today for a free consultation.

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