When a Tesla Crashes: Everything You Need to Know

Our Teslas are so expensive, fancy and futuristic that most of us just can’t bring ourselves to imagine anything truly bad happening to them. The bad news, however, is that bad things do happen to Tesla cars, just like any other car on the road today. What’s more, there are some unique conditions of some Tesla crashes that warrant further knowledge when compared to regular cars.

We all might think we know exactly what to do in a crash, but let’s say your accident while driving your Tesla was a direct result of Full-Self-Driving (FSD) mode, or Autopilot? This can have different implications, and so needs to be taken into account. In today’s blog, we’ll try to cover all the bases and provide Tesla drivers with a really comprehensive guide on what to do in the event of a crash.

Your Tesla Has Been in a Crash – Now What?

Turn Off the Car

The very first thing Tesla advises customers to do in the event of any crash is to power off the vehicle and remove the key. Fortunately, that’s also as simple as pressing the park button on the end of the gear-selector stalk. If you’re a new Tesla driver, the company also reminds you that your Tesla would be making no noise even if it were active, so don’t trust an absence of noise as indicating that your Tesla is powered down.

In an Emergency, Call 911

If you, your passengers, or others involved in the crash in some way have been injured, then you should call 911 and summon emergency services to the site as soon as possible. Tesla models are now fitted with SOS buttons, which activates the eCall function (emergency call). This reports key information following a serious accident to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), including the vehicle type, the number of passengers detected in the vehicle, and its location.

However, it should be noted that Tesla’s eCall function is not available in all regions, and only imparts the limited information described above. Therefore, being ready to call on emergency services yourself if possible is still the best option. If your Tesla’s airbags deploy, or the car otherwise detects that the crash has been serious, the eCall function can activate automatically. If your crash situation doesn’t warrant the attention of emergency services, then proceed directly onto the next step.

In a Non-Emergency, Call Roadside Assistance

Tesla has a full list of phone numbers for each region, making it clear on who to call to summon roadside assistance. This information can also be found in the information Tesla gave you when buying your vehicle. Tesla’s own roadside assistance service is uniquely equipped to handle damaged vehicles, making it a better choice than a third-party service provider. As things stand, electric cars are still a small part of the market, and most roadside assistance is geared towards gasoline cars, but EVs have different needs, and different rules when it comes to things like towing, etc.

Therefore, we recommend that you stick with Tesla’s own roadside assistance service in this instance, since they will have those same requirements and rules built into their system, giving you greater peace of mind, and assurances that further accidental damage won’t be done to your Tesla while recovering it.

Getting a Police Report

In most cases, before moving on with the crash aftermath, you’ll need to have some kind of official report from the police as to what has occurred. If a police officer is on-site, this is made somewhat simpler, but you may have to report the incident to your local law enforcement team yourself. The police report will prove essential when dealing with the insurance company, and/or in any resulting lawsuits (see below for more).

Dealing with the Aftermath of the Crash

After the above steps, your car is recovered and the site cleared, and hopefully you yourself have recovered or are recovering from any shock or injuries you might have endured. Never forget to take care of yourself first after these incidents. Sometimes, the paperwork can wait. When you’re ready, however, there is more to be done:

Don’t Try to Fix the Car Yourself

If you want insurance to help cover part or all of the cost of repair, then you have to resist any temptation or other urge you have to fix the car yourself. If you try to effect repairs yourself, you might see zero help from the insurance company, leaving any and all future repair costs entirely in your hands. Given that these repairs on a Tesla can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars — especially if the battery has been damaged and needs replacing — then this is something you should take very seriously.

File an Insurance Claim

After most accidents, you’ll want to contact your insurance provider as soon as possible and report what has happened. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can gain a resolution on the entire matter. Depending on your coverage, you’ll get different levels of support from your insurer:

  • Liability-only Coverage — This will cover the costs of repairing damage to other cars involved in an accident for which you were responsible. Liability isn’t always clear cut, but in some situations it is, such as when you rear-end another car, you are invariably responsible for damage caused.
  • Comprehensive Coverage — This will cover the costs of repairs for both third-party vehicles, and your own. Comprehensive coverage sometimes includes additional cover, such as emergency medical treatment, legal costs, and more. Exactly how much additional cover is provided will depend on your individual contract.

Remember that when filing your insurance claim, you will have to pay whatever deductible you have accepted. Those who wanted cheaper premiums — especially younger Tesla owners — may have opted for a higher deductible, which you’ll now have to pay if you want to save more money in the long term by getting the insurance company to pay out for the rest of the damage.

States in the US tend to differ on requirements for a timeframe of filing an insurance claim following an accident, but the sooner you can do it, the better. A pretty typical requirement is within 10 days, but you should do your best to have it reported to your insurer within 24 hours of occurrence, if you can. This minimizes any chance of complications, as well as later delays in getting the financial support you’ll need.

Autopilot- or FSD-Related Crash? Prepare a Lawsuit

Most US-based accident attorney firms are now recommending that people file lawsuits against Tesla if and when they are involved in an accident caused either by the Autopilot system going wrong, or the “Full-Self-Driving Mode” (FSD) system. These are frequently at the heart of controversial incidents involving Tesla cars, sometimes because people are abusing or misusing the functions, but also arguably because Tesla, specifically Elon Musk, has perhaps bigged up the capabilities of these systems too much.

With a name like Autopilot and Full-Self-Driving Mode, one would assume that these Tesla cars are literally capable of driving themselves. However, taking these brand names as face value can be fatal. No Tesla vehicle has yet emerged out of the SAE Level 2 stage of automation, which means human input and full attention are always required while using.

Should you wish to file a lawsuit, then attorneys recommend that you:

  • …make sure you have the proper police report following the accident
  • …write down your full account of everything that happened prior to the accident, sparing no detail

You can then contact a local law firm — preferably one that specializes in this kind of case — and discuss the process with them in more detail. Be aware that such lawsuits could take a long time to resolve, and may still result in you losing your case and potentially adding legal costs to your insurance deductible and other repair costs.

Getting the Car Repaired

Tesla Service Center (Recommended)

What options do you have for getting the car repaired? The first and most obvious choice is to use the Tesla Service Center to get repairs done. Assuming that your insurance company green lights repairs, the Tesla Service Center is the safest place to have them done, and could well be the only one that your insurance company accepts. 

Be careful, therefore, when talking to third-party mechanics about getting cheaper repairs done. You might think the insurance company will accept cheaper repairs, but they might not if they don’t recognize the mechanic’s level of expertise on Tesla cars. What they’re afraid of is sub-par repairs resulting in another crash for which you’ll make yet another claim.

Third-Party Auto Shops

If you are shouldering the costs of repairs yourself in an effort to stop your insurance premiums from skyrocketing, then you might look to a third-party body shop to get the work done. This is not a bad idea, especially if you know reputable and experienced mechanics in your area that can handle the work. Repairing serious damage will still likely cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but it will invariably be cheaper than the Tesla Service Center, just as third-party auto shops are cheaper than other OEM dealerships when it comes to repairs.

Our advice when it comes to using third-party services is never to focus on just the lowest price. Always look for those with the best reputation and the experience that you really need. They will do the job better, and also reduce the risk of problems or complications with future insurance claims should they arise.

Don’t Panic!

In the end, it’s critical that you remain as calm as possible whenever you’re involved in a car accident, Tesla or no. It is great that Tesla is trying to integrate more safety gear to try and prevent accidents from happening in the first place, but even when all is said and done, human error still exists and therefore so do traffic collisions.

The fact is that Tesla owners currently aren’t at any more of a safety advantage than anyone else, strictly speaking. The high-tech gear in a Tesla is great, but it has made some Tesla owners complacent and even lazy as drivers. Over-reliance on sensors, cameras and touchscreens to warn us of things, for example, is dulling our common sense to do simple things like check our blindspot.

So, remain calm, but vigilant at all times. Follow the right steps after an accident and you’ll find the entire ordeal much easier to deal with overall.

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