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First Self-Driving Fatality is Reported as Tesla Car Hits Truck in Florida

I pride myself in helping clients through their toughest times.- Bill O’Mara

Attorney at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

First Self-Driving Fatality is Reported as Tesla Car Hits Truck in Florida

There has been a lot of hype in recent months about how self-driving cars can protect us from accidents.

On the flip side, the idea of not being in control of your car can be alarming and self-driving cars have started to crash.

I was saddened to read about the first fatal crash involving a self-driving car this week when a Tesla Model S car that was in autopilot mode hit a truck on a Florida highway. The crash has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a preliminary evaluation of the automatic driving feature.

USA Today reported on how Joshua Brown, 40 of Ohio, died from injuries he suffered when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of his Tesla on a highway near Williston. He was reported to be watching Harry Potter at the time of the wreck.

The “Autopilot” system that is now under investigation is intended to allow Teslas to cruise along highways without their drivers having to brake, steer or accelerate. The car is meant to stay in its lane and to brake suddenly if traffic ahead comes to a halt.

This wreck has raised concerns about the technology even though Tesla says it’s the first casualty in 130 million miles where autopilot was activated.

It’s important to get to the bottom of the cause of this tragic wreck. Tesla has suggested that neither the car's hardware nor the driver could see the tractor trailer's white side due to the "brightly lit sky" behind it.

If this is the case, it would be a worrying explanation that suggests crash avoidance systems may not work properly given certain lighting conditions.


This fatal crash raises questions about liability. While at-fault drivers are usually sued after accidents through their insurance policies, a failure of equipment in a self-driving car scenario would put the blame on the doorstep of the manufacturer and make this a product liability issue.

I wrote about some of the dangers and drawbacks of self-driving cars in a recent blog. The idea of being out of control is an alarming one. I was certainly perturbed recently when Google suggested putting sticky pads on the front of its self-driving cars in case they hit pedestrians. It’s far from reassuring to know they are contemplating auto/pedestrian accidents.

If you or a loved one has been in an auto accident, please call us here at Cooper Hurley at (757) 455-0077 or contact us online.

John Cooper

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John Cooper

John Cooper is a veteran of personal injury law practice in Virginia. A native Virginian, he was raised in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. He has more than 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases and recently handled the largest auto accident settlement in 2010, according to VA Lawyers Weekly. The award provided $3.5 million to a child whose young father died when the vehicle he was a passenger in was rear-ended by a careless truck driver.

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Jim Hurley

Jim Hurley has been practicing law throughout Virginia for more than two-and-a-half decades. During his career, he has tried more than 100 jury trials — a staggering number — and handled hundreds more that were settled out of court. He is guided by the principle that the client is in charge of his or her case and should be kept fully aware of the litigation process. Jim has been awarded an AV Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating given, for his practice of law. He was named in Virginia Super Lawyers in 2014, 2015, 2016.

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Bill O’mara

Bill O’Mara started his legal career in 2008, moving back to his home town of Chesapeake, VA. He has practiced in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury and other litigation. He has gained extensive court room and trial experience, including contested trials before judges and juries across Hampton Roads. In 2014, Mr. O’Mara joined Injury Lawyers as an associate attorney. He became a partner in 2017.

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