Electric Car Battery Explosions and Fires
This article serves to update readers with recent deaths tied to electric vehicles due to battery explosion and door handle failure, primarily Tesla. Lithium ion batteries are still a relatively new phenomenon within the automotive industry.
Researchers are still compiling information on their long-term safety. Though Tesla has gained notoriety in recent years, there are many other automotive companies that have been making electric vehicles with similar lithium ion technologies.
It’s a high priority to understand the potential danger of electric cars in order to keep you and your family safe. If you or someone you love has been injured due to a battery explosion from an electric car, you should contact the lawyers at Johnson // Becker for a Free Case Evaluation.
Tesla Door Handles
In all of the praise Tesla has received, from its electric motor to advanced touch screen system, the door handles are a dangerous dud.
By now, many people are familiar with the luxury electric cars that look strikingly different from nearly everything on the market. From sleek lines that make it aerodynamic, to its battery-operated silence, Tesla vehicles really stand out from the average gas-guzzler.
The Model S Tesla has door handles that are flush to the body of the car when not in use. This is part of the vehicles modern and sleek appeal. They work by “presenting” themselves (or popping out) when needed, such as unlocking the vehicle.
For safety reasons, the door handles are supposed to pop out when the airbags are deployed. This was a keen level of safety-consciousness Tesla thought it put into its car. The company event went so far as to create a guide for first responders that may arrive at the scene of a Tesla-involved accident and how to work with the flush door handles.
However, if the handles don’t deploy in a crash, one can only imagine the terror of being unable to get out or being rescued from their vehicle.
Tesla Door Handle Death
In February 2019 a Tesla owner died after crashing his vehicle and first-responders were unable to get him out due to the failed door handles.
Omar Awan, a 48-year-old anesthesiologist of Florida, crashed his Model S into a tree in South Florida. A police officer nearby responded to the scene but was unable to get inside the car to rescue Awan. The door handles, as previously mentioned, were designed to protrude in the event of an emergency, known as “auto present” but in this case, they failed to do so.
Subsequently, the car’s lithium ion battery caught fire and Awan ended up dying of smoke inhalation. The car was described as being completely engulfed in flames. First responders were helpless to assist. Awan’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla in Broward County, citing the Model S handles are defective and the potential fire risk had not been properly addressed.
Officially, the autopsy report obtained by The Washington Post, ruled Awan’s official cause of death was due to “inhalation of products combustion with a contributory cause of death of thermal injuries.”
The lawsuit claims Awan was still alive when he hit the tree as “he had no internal injuries or broken bones. He died from the smoke he inhaled as he sat locked inside the Tesla, despite that a police officer and others were there and ready to help, until flames forced them away.”
Tesla Owners Were Already Concerned
Tesla may have been warned of the potential risk of death or serious injury due to defective door handles on the Model S. On October 16, 2017, a user on the official Tesla forum page posted about the potential dangers of door handles that are unable to operate, a warning to other drivers.
“I believe door handles on a Model S are a safety issue and horrible manufacturing defect on the Tesla part,” the user said. “If you get into the accident and first responders can’t open the door to pull you out… just use your imagination Tesla, do you really want someone to get hurt because of a microswitch and bad wire placement ? Please issue a replacement program for original wire harness door handles. You can afford to do it now, not when Model 3 rolls out. Please appreciate your loyal customers who just want to get into their Teslas :)” gornikmarcin
Another user, Farhad Orakzai tweeted and wrote to Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc. “this is the third time my door handle has died, and now I can’t even get into my car from the driver door. Who knows how long I’ll have to wait to get an appointment to fix it. Have to literally climb into the car from another door to drive now. Please help Elon.”
He later wrote a longer piece on Reddit about the entire situation:
“This is getting really annoying… the first time my door handle broke was the passenger one about 6 months ago, it would not present when i unlocked the car, and Tesla fixed it after about a week. the second time a door handle died was just a month and a half ago. The driver side rear door handle failed to present itself when i unlocked the car, but it was no big deal because i don’t really use it. i called Tesla and they came out to fix it after a few days. now when i tried to unlock my car at the grocery store, the driver door handle would not present… i had to literally climb into the car from the passenger door..”
Tesla Lithium Ion Battery Explodes in Teen Crash
Another horrific accident in Florida involved two teenagers who burned to death in a 2014 Model S on May 8, 2018.
Barret Riley was driving the vehicle at dangerous speeds in Aventura, Florida neighborhood. Edgar Monserratt Martinez was the front-seat passenger, while Alexander Berry was the backseat passenger.
The car was estimated to have been going around 116 mph when it lost control around a curve and hit a concrete wall. When the car hit the wall, the battery erupted into horrific flames. Berry was ejected from the vehicle and survived the preliminary stages of the crash.
Larry Groshart recounts the horror of being a witness to the crash, “The fire was big enough that I couldn’t really tell [where it began],” he said. “The flames followed the car as it crossed the lanes. It was an unusual-looking flame because there was no smoke. Just big, red orange flames.”
Onlookers and passerby’s were probably in shock. “They couldn’t get closer than about 10 feet,” Groshart said. “One was standing in the middle of the street screaming an obscenity over and over and over, because he was so frustrated.”
The National Transportation Safety Board estimates the airbags deployed at 85 mph, and the car hit 108 mph only two seconds before the crash. The parents of Martinez filed a Tesla lawsuit that accuses the car manufacturer of negligence and liability in their son’s death.
James Riley, the father of Barret Riley, has filed a lawsuit accusing the lithium ion battery of causing his son’s unfortunate death. The lawsuit alleges the teens themselves were not killed by the crash, but by the fire caused by the battery.
Electric Car Accident Battery Explosion
All of the electric cars on the market are operating with lithium ion batteries. According to researchers at Temple University, the strong impact of fire and explosion due to a lithium ion battery is known as “thermal runaway.” This is when batteries catch fire following a temperature spike in the event of say, a car accident.
The lawsuit originating from Awan’s family, and what the users online were getting at, is the lithium ion batteries are a death trap in the event of a serious car accident.
Regarding the defective door handles: “Tesla failed to give any appropriate, adequate, full or fair warnings about the risks relating to the door handles or the smoke and fire,” the Awan lawsuit goes on to state.
The fire damage was so severe from the lithium ion battery in both Awan and the teenagers’ car accident, that after extinguishing the fire, the towed vehicles reignited and burned.
Do you have an electric car battery explosion?
If you or someone you love has been injured, or you have suffered the unfortunate loss of someone you love from a Tesla, you should speak to an electric car battery explosion lawyer. Financial compensation may be available to you by filing a lawsuit. We offer a Free Case Evaluation and would be honored to speak to you.