On the heels of a federal rebuke, Toyota finds itself the subject of a class action product liability lawsuit brought on behalf of vehicle owners, namely of Toyota and Lexus vehicles, who have experienced incidents of sudden unintended acceleration. Top personal injury lawyers encourage those drivers who suspect their vehicles may be subject to the subject recall due to the accelerator sticking based on a defective floor mat, to contact the manufacturer of their vehicle immediately.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a statement criticizing Toyota for issuing “inaccurate and misleading” statements about the 3.8 million vehicles it recalled after a deadly California accident in August of this year attributed to sudden unintended acceleration.
The “inaccurate and misleading” statements occurred in a November 2, 2009 press release issued by Toyota informing the public it was mailing letters to affected vehicle owners. The press release stated: “The letter, in compliance with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and reviewed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also confirms that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.” In other words, the NHTSA found that defective floor mats contribute to sudden unintended acceleration, which could lead to serious car accident injuries.
In fact, the NHTSA believes removal of floor mats to be only a temporary solution, citing problems with the floor plan design as well as with the gas pedal. The class action lawsuit, filed in California, suggests the problem involves a series of system failures, namely those of the computer, electronic, and mechanical systems. It also cites faulty design, or lack of safe guards such as a brake-to-idle failsafe mechanism, that prevents a driver from safely stopping an unintended acceleration event.
According to research from Safety Research & Strategies, Inc., a company specializing in safety research and strategies, there have been more than 2000 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration, 243 injuries and at least 16 people killed by the car’s sudden acceleration.
In the letter sent to affected vehicle owners but without model information, Toyota offers these suggestions if you experience sudden unintended acceleration:
- First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.
- If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do NOT pump the brake pedal repeatedly as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.
- Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.
- If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.
- If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.
- If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.
The hope of both the class action lawsuit, and continued investigation by the NHTSA is that the causes of sudden unintended acceleration will be identified and Toyota will take the causes seriously and fix the problems so future lives of its drivers are saved.
Vehicle accidents of any kind can be catastrophic. For a free consultation with one of our top Chicago car crash injury lawyers, call Passen & Powell at (312) 527-4500.