No Accelerator Defect in Toyotas?

In response to literally thousands of complaints regarding sudden acceleration in Toyotas in recent years, including at least 75 fatal crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been conducting studies to determine the defect causing the sudden acceleration in Toyotas. Since last year, Toyota has recalled over 8 millions vehicles due to this alleged accelerator defect. In addition, Toyota received a fine from the NHTSA earlier this year for failing to inform the NHTSA about the issue concerning the accelerators in a timely manner.

Over 100 plaintiffs have already filed both personal injury and wrongful death suits against Toyota, presumably alleging defective design. The only problem with this NHTSA testing thus far (at least in the eyes of plaintiffs, to be sure) is that the testing has yet to uncover a defect. The preliminary results seem to indicate that driver error, rather than an electronic defect, is the most likely cause of this rash of accidents involving Toyotas. These preliminary findings do not constitute good news for plaintiffs and claimants, but the testing seems far from finished at this point. Seeing that Congress has already commented publicly about Toyota’s poor handling of this situation, the NHTSA would be well advised to double and triple check its findings before concluding its investigation.

Special thanks to Brian Gibbons for his contributions to this post. If you have any questions, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.

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