An ongoing Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that more than 1,000 Toyota and Lexus owners have reported since 2001 that their vehicles suddenly accelerated on their own, in many cases slamming into trees, parked cars and brick walls, among other obstacles, based on a review of federal records. The crashes resulted in at least 19 deaths and scores of injuries over the last decade. Federal regulators say that is far more than any other automaker has experienced.
Owner complaints helped trigger at least eight investigations into sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the last seven years. Toyota Motor Corp. recalled fewer than 85,000 vehicles in response to two of those probes, and the federal agency closed six other cases without finding a defect. But those investigations systematically excluded or dismissed the majority of complaints by owners that their Toyota and Lexus vehicles had suddenly accelerated, which sharply narrowed the scope of the probes, the Times investigation revealed.
Federal officials eliminated broad categories of sudden-acceleration complaints, including cases in which drivers said they were unable to stop runaway cars using their brakes; incidents of unintended acceleration lasting more than a few seconds; and reports in which owners did not identify the possible causes of the problem.
NHTSA officials used the exclusions as part of their rationale to close at least five of the investigations without finding any defect, because — with fewer incidents to consider — the agency concluded there were not enough reported problems to warrant further inquiry. In a 2003 Lexus probe, for example, the agency threw out all but one of 37 customer complaints cited in a defect petition. It then halted further investigation, saying it “found no data indicating the existence of a defect trend.”
Meanwhile, fatal crashes involving Toyota vehicles continued to mount. In a written statement, the NHTSA said its records show that a total of 15 people died in crashes related to possible sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles from the 2002 model year and newer, compared with 11 such deaths in vehicles made by all other automakers.
Despite Toyota issuing numerous recalls relating to sticky pedals and improper floor mats, accidents and deaths continue to occur. To date, there have been thousands of reports of unintended acceleration resulting in hundreds of injuries and at least 19 deaths. Toyota refuses to entertain any suggestion that its electronic throttle system could have played a role in these accidents, despite there being no viable alternative for why these crashes occurred.
Lawyers in the Section are representing a number of folks who have been injured as a result of Toyota SUA. One of our clients is Mrs. Jean Bookout, who woke up in an Oklahoma hospital a month after a crash involving her 2005 Camry. She said her car sped out of control on a freeway and crashed into an embankment after she swerved onto an exit ramp. The car left behind long skid marks from her attempts to stop the vehicle with her brakes and emergency brake. Mrs. Bookout did everything she could to stop her Toyota Camry prior to the wreck. Mrs. Bookout sustained permanent memory loss among other severe injuries. We also represent the family of her best friend, Barbara Schwarz, who died in the accident.
If you need more information about Toyota or SUA cases, contact Graham Esdale or Ben Baker at 800-898-2034 or by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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