When a California family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, their purpose was to prevent other families from suffering a similar tragedy.

As reported in Forbes magazine, their relative’s Model X vehicle had a defective semi-automated driving feature, which the family claims caused the 38-year-old’s unfortunate fate.

The accident

While driving on the 101 Freeway through Silicon Valley, the Model X crashed into a concrete barrier. According to the family’s complaint, the car’s semi-automated system misread the lanes. The autopilot feature did not detect the concrete barrier that was dividing the freeway, and it did not automatically apply the brakes when it should have. Instead of braking, the vehicle’s feature purportedly accelerated and slammed into the barrier.

The claim against Tesla

The product liability lawsuit alleges that Tesla is responsible for their relative’s death because of its false advertising, misrepresentation and failure to warn the driver of the Model X’s dangers, as well as by incorporating a defective product design.

The claim against the state

The family is also suing the State of California over the missing guard rail that allegedly should have been placed around the concrete barrier. The lawsuit claims that if a guardrail were there, the crash may not have resulted in their relative’s death.

To prove the Golden State is liable, the court may require expert testimony and engineering studies to determine whether a guard rail around the concrete barrier could have reduced the force of the vehicle’s impact.

A ground-breaking lawsuit

In some cases, a family’s product liability suit filed against a car manufacturer may help improve future production plans and correct a flaw in a defective model. According to the Museum of American Tort Law, a lawsuit filed against Ford in 1981 brought attention to the court’s powers in holding a car manufacturer liable for injuries and deaths. The families of the driver killed in the crash and her severely burned passenger accused Ford of designing a defective fuel system which caused its Pinto model’s unprotected gas tank to explode in a rear-end collision.

The suit achieved more than the largest amount of total damages awarded in a product liability case. The civil action also uncovered the dangers of a design process in which a car manufacturer rushes through a model’s production in order to bring it to market quickly.