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Tesla crashes raise questions about electric car safety

Car buyers in Hawaii and around the country who are looking for vehicles with green credentials and sophisticated technology often choose electric cars made by Tesla. The California-based manufacturer's cars are powered by large lithium ion batteries and feature semi-autonomous systems including the much heralded Autopilot feature, but a series of deadly crashes involving Teslas has raised concerns about their safety and attracted the attention of federal crash investigators.

Accidents which took place in Florida in May 2018 and on Feb. 24 both involved Tesla Model S sedans equipped with the Autopilot feature that left the roadway at a high rate of speed and killed their occupants. According to media reports, the batteries on both cars caught fire at least three times. It is the danger posed to first responders by electric car battery fires, which can burn for 24 hours and are extremely difficult to extinguish, that has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate.

Some road safety advocates say that accidents involving Teslas are often caused by drivers who overestimate the capabilities of systems like Autopilot, and they accuse the company of intentionally misleading consumers by referring to the technology as a self-driving feature. Tesla denies these claims and says that it urges drivers to remain alert and vigilant when using Autopilot.

When manufacturers face product liability lawsuits after consumers have been injured using their products, they often claim that the plaintiffs acted negligently by not following instructions contained in owner's manuals or other literature. In order to counter such arguments, experienced personal injury attorneys may cite marketing materials that contain statements that contradict these legal disclaimers.

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