In February, I wrote about the lawsuits that Toyota will increasingly face regarding the unintended acceleration of some of its cars, which has been blamed for 93 deaths. Toyota’s handling of recalls related to the unintended acceleration problem have led to some serious public- and government relations problems, since the company appears to have sat on evidence about these problems for three years before doing anything about them. The New York Times recently reported that Toyota has admitted that some of the reported incidents of sudden acceleration really were related to problems with floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals, rather than only due to driver error, as the carmaker had previously claimed. From my perspective as a Missouri car crash attorney, Toyota’s admission means that consumers and their advocates should continue to insist on complete answers to questions about whether their vehicles are safe.
Toyota’s acknowledgement that the floor mat and sticking pedal problems are real came in the context of its investigation of about 2,000 reports of sudden acceleration. The company did not say how many of these incidents it believes were caused by floor mats or sticking pedals, but its spokesman, Mike Michels, said more of the incidents were related to floor mats than to pedals. Michels said that none of the vehicles with sticking pedals were involved in crashes, and he was unable to say how many crashes were related to the floor mats. Toyota maintains that in almost all crashes related to unintended acceleration, the problem was that the driver mistakenly pressed the accelerator rather than the brake.
Michels said there was no evidence of problems with the electronic throttle control system, despite the research of Southern Illinois University professor David Gilbert that demonstrated such problems. However, Toyota may be avoiding looking closely at its electronic throttle system because it’s afraid of what it might find. A Massachusetts consulting firm, Safety Research and Strategies, is taking a broader view of the unintended acceleration problems. Its president, Sean Kane, said, “You can’t ignore the fact that when they move to an electronic throttle control, you basically see a fourfold increase in complaints.” Toyota’s investigation has focused on information gathered by vehicles’ onboard data recorders, which are activated by crashes violent enough to cause the airbag to deploy. But Kane pointed out that these recorders rely on “the same sensing system that is unable to detect the failure to begin with,” so they couldn’t prove that a car didn’t accelerate suddenly on its own. And Toyota itself has argued in court cases that its onboard data recorders should not be used as reliable sources of evidence.
As a southern Illinois auto accident attorney, I find the suggestion that Toyota may be purposely avoiding looking at its electronic throttle control very troubling. Between Professor Gilbert’s account of Toyota’s possible attempts to quash his research into its electronics, and Toyota’s own description of the onboard data recorders as unreliable, it seems clear that those who have been harmed by automobiles with runaway acceleration problems should keep pushing for real answers. They should also discuss with a St. Louis car crash lawyer how they might pursue compensation for any harm they have suffered as a result of Toyota’s failure to warn consumers or investigate the cause of defects in their vehicles.
Carey, Danis & Lowe helps victims of serious auto accidents caused by someone else’s negligence, such as automakers who refused to take appropriate action to ensure customers’ safety. Manufacturers of consumer products are legally required to let the public know about any unavoidable safety problems with their products, or face lawsuits from people who were harmed by their failure to give an adequate warning. Our firm has years of experience litigating against manufacturers who have failed in that duty, and have helped hundreds of clients recover the money they need to pay for medical care, make ends meet and be fairly compensated after a catastrophic injury or wrongful death. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car crash caused by defective cars or parts, please contact Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. To set up a free consultation, you can send us a message online or call 1-877-678-3400 today.