As a Missouri auto defect attorney, I have followed the news about the Toyota sudden acceleration problems with great interest. As you might remember, regulators focused their attention on Toyota vehicles in 2009 after evidence emerged showing that Toyotas had an unusual number of accidents blamed on acceleration the drivers didn’t intend. The automaker initially blamed floor mats for trapping gas pedals, then “sticky” gas pedals, and recalled millions of Toyota and Lexus models to fix those problems. But some observers believe the real problem is with newer cars’ electronic throttles, also known as “drive by wire,” malfunctioning without a clear way for drivers to override them. That’s the theory behind product defect lawsuits filed by seven insurance companies against Toyota on Dec. 30.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the insurers are seeking to recover insurance payments made to their customers in crashes they believe were caused by defects in Toyota vehicles. They are claiming damages in excess of $230,000 from 14 crashes, but say as many as 725 crashes may have been caused by unintended acceleration. In the lawsuits, the insurance companies say the problem comes from defects in Toyota’s products, and that Toyota could have fixed it by including an override system that idles the vehicle when the gas and brake are both pressed. Evidence shows that Toyota discussed this solution with federal regulators as early as 2007 — but didn’t implement it until 2010. The same legal theory is behind a slew of lawsuits by accident victims, which are consolidated in California federal court and still pending. Toyota was also sued by Allstate Insurance three months ago.
The new lawsuits indicate to me, as a St. Louis car crash lawyer, that all of these lawsuits are likely on the right track. Individuals may or may not choose to sue for emotional reasons, but when a business like an insurance company files a claim, it’s likely because that business thinks it’s worth the financial risk. That bodes well for everyone making the claims against Toyota. If records show the automaker considered putting in a safety override to its electronic throttle system three years before it actually did so, that could look a lot to a jury like a decision to place finances ahead of its customers’ safety. And as other automakers know, that is unlikely to impress a jury favorably. After all the claims are finished, Toyota is likely to be on the hook for millions of dollars, not just the money the insurers claimed.
Under state product defect law, auto manufacturers are no different from other manufacturers of consumer products, like clothes and food. All of them have a legal obligation to make sure their products are safe to use, or warn customers about safety defects. When automakers fail to do this, not even the safest drivers can prevent accidents. Carey, Danis & Lowe has substantial experience representing victims of defective products as well as victims of auto accidents, so we understand the legal and personal ramifications of both types of claim. Our southern Illinois defective auto attorneys can help clients claim the full costs of their injuries. That includes financial costs like medical bills and lost wages as well as compensation for physical injuries, emotional trauma and any permanent disability or wrongful death.
If you believe you or someone in your family was seriously hurt in an accident caused by a Toyota or Lexus that accelerated without warning — or any other defective vehicle — you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe today for help. To learn more or set up a free consultation, call us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email.