You may have seen the aggressive advertising touting Toyotas lately to counter at least three years of very bad press for the automaker after a series of recalls over crashes with a mysterious cause. Consumers complained their Toyotas accelerated without their input and as far back as March 2007 the all-weather floor mat was identified as a possible clause of the crashes.
Whether a Prius, Lexus, Camry, Avalon, or almost any other model of Toyota, hundreds of complaints came in about unexplained, unintended acceleration. A major headline-making case in August 2009 involved the family of a California Highway Patrol officer who, along with his family, perished over a San Diego hillside after their loaner Lexus suddenly accelerated out of control. The nation heard the 911 calls made by the frantic driver trying to stop the vehicle before the crash.
A trapped floor mat caused that crash, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a recall was necessary.
By September 2009, NHTSA said a previous recall of 55,000 floor mats was insufficient and by October, another 3.8 million vehicles were recalled for pedal entrapment in the floor mats. A letter went out to consumers telling them to remove their floor mats.
It didn’t matter to Toyota that reports kept coming in of unintentional acceleration even when floor mats had been removed, such as the death of four people in December near Dallas when an Avalon sped uncontrollably off the road. In that case, the floor mats were found in the trunk.
By January 2010 Toyota told NHTSA its vehicles may have a sticking pedal that contributed to the defective vehicles. The Japanese automaker recalled 2.3 million vehicles that month for the sticky pedal defect. Another 1.1 million vehicles were added to the recall at NHTSA’s urging.
In a bizarre argument, NHTSA suggested that car pedals may need to be redesigned so people didn’t confuse the brake and accelerator in something called “pedal misapplication”.
But all along, the suspicion was that the electronic throttle may be defective. By early 2011 the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released the results of a 10-month study and concluded Toyota vehicles suffered from no electronic flaws and instead shifted the blame for unintended accelerations back to the sticking accelerator pedal and a design flaw that allowed the accelerator pedal to become trapped by the floor mats.
But look at the history – after electronic throttles were installed beginning in 2002 model Toyotas, complaints jumped from 26 a year to 132 a year. A Los Angeles Times review found in 2009 there were at least 19 deaths in Toyotas since the 2002 model year compared with 11 for other automakers.
Toyota was forced to pay a $48.8 million fine for failing to report to federal regulators consumer complaints about unintended acceleration. After three congressional hearings, 11 million recalled cars, and hundreds of lawsuits in state and federal courts linked to sudden acceleration, Toyota finally said in late 2010 it would install brake override systems in late 2011 model cars to take care of the sudden unintended acceleration problem.
Farah & Farah’s Jacksonville auto recall attorneys understand how to evaluate your case to determine if it was the result of a defective automobile, defective auto component, or a defective design. Let our accident reconstruction experts evaluate how your accident happened in order to uncover the at-fault party who will be responsible for your medical costs and the cost of lost wages for now and in the future.
Call Farah & Farah’s auto product liability attorneys today for a free consultation at 855-797-9899.