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Car fire raises concerns about car fires among public

While electric vehicles have generally received good scores in government tests for front and side crashes, a recent incident on a Seattle-area freeway has raised concerns about the safety of these vehicles in actual roadway use, concerns which don’t necessarily get caught in laboratory testing.

The accident, the results of which are posted on YouTube, occurred when the driver hit a large metal object in the road. That apparently damaged a battery cell and caused a fire to break out. According to the company, the car functioned as it was designed to by containing the fire within the front part of the vehicle, but experts say such accidents are rare

The motor vehicle accident reportedly caused shares of Tesla Motors to fall 10 percent, largely because of the notoriety the accident received through YouTube. What followed was a good deal of media attention on potential safety issues associated with electric cars like the Tesla, Chevy Volts, and Fisker Karmas.

Electric cars have not had the success that manufacturers hoped they would, and the new negative attention has thrown in additional challenges. Not that car fires are something unique to electric cars. On average, around 194,000 vehicles catch fire.

Accidents on the roadway can be caused not only by the negligence of other drivers, but also by flaws or malfunctions in a driver’s vehicle. For victims of such accidents, product liability litigation is something that can be pursued, but that is not without its challenges.

By contrast, accidents that are caused by unsafe driving or improper maintenance of roadways or other such matters are handled in personal injury litigation. 

Source: The Denver Post, “Tesla car fire shows electric models face safety challenges,” October 4, 2013. 

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