Federal investigators ignored runaway Toyota cases

Legal news for product liability attorneys. A review of federal records revealed federal investigators ignored runaway cases.

Product liability lawyers alerts- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials ignored reports of Toyota sudden accelerations.

West Palm Beach, FL—Since 2001, over 1,000 reports from Toyota and Lexus automotive owners have stated their vehicles suddenly accelerated on their own. These reports were widely dismissed by safety investigators citing a lack of data to support their claims. A Los Angeles Times investigation of federal records uncovered the unreported truths.

The investigation revealed the unexpected accelerations have killed at least 19 people over the last decade when their cars have slammed into trees, parked cars, brick walls, and other far more tragic endings. This death toll is the highest among other automakers, according to federal regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ has investigated nearly eight consumer complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus automobiles in the last seven years. Less than 850,000 automobiles were recalled by Toyota Motor Corporation as a result of two of their NHTSA investigations. The NHTSA officials did not find a defect in the other six cases, and subsequently closed them. The Times revealed that federal officials did not include broad categories of the sudden-acceleration reports, which resulted in automatically dismissing or not including a vast majority of the Toyota and Lexus owner complaints. The federal officials did not included instances in which drivers stated they were not able to stop their cars when they suddenly accelerated by using their brakes; unintended accelerations that lasted over a few seconds; and when the owner could not identify the possible causes of the acceleration. NHTSA officials stated that there were exclusions made in the investigations, but they defended their investigations by stating, “ While some vehicles may be excluded from the scope of an investigation into a specific practice defect allegation, all are continuously reviewed, along with other relevant information, in order to identify other emerging issues of concern.”

Other independent safety experts and investigators have uncovered almost 2,000 sudden-acceleration reports of Toyota models since 2001, which is 1,000 more instances than what federal investigators reported. Other safety experts claim the number of reports may be even higher, which cites a 2007 NHTSA survey that found 10 percent of nearly 600 Lexus automotive owners reported that they had a sudden acceleration experience. In September, Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles that claimed the floor mats caused the acceleration. The Toyota models that were recalled were: the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2004-2009 Prius, the 2005-2010 Avalon, the 2005-2020 Tacoma, the 2007-2010 Tundra, in addition to the 2007-2010 Lexus ES 350, the 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250, and the IS 350. Nearly 400 reports of sudden-acceleration were identified in these models, in which NHTSA were aware of 260 of those cases, and additional 114 cases were uncovered by Toyota.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for product liability lawyers.