Toyota announced several massive recalls of its cars, vans, and trucks in 2009 and 2010 because the gas pedal and throttle system in certain models could cause unintended acceleration. Along with the recalls came hundreds of lawsuits, brought by individuals and on behalf of large groups of people (called class action lawsuits). Toyota models affected by the recalls include the 2004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Tacoma, and 2007-2010 Tundra. Affected Lexus models include the 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and the 2006-2010 Lexus IS.
The individual lawsuits seek compensation for injuries or deaths caused by Toyota's faulty accelerator pedals. The class actions seek compensation on behalf of Toyota owners whose cars have declined in value due to the defects.
If a car manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovers a safety defect in a particular car, motorcycle, or other vehicle, the NHTSA may order a recall or the manufacturer may voluntarily recall the vehicle. When a car is recalled, the manufacturer notifies vehicle owners of the problem and provides a remedy, such as a free repair. (To learn more about vehicle recalls, see Nolo's article Safety Recalls for Cars & Motorcycles.)
Between the fall of 2009 and the winter of 2010, Toyota recalled approximately 8.5 million vehicles worldwide.
September 2009. Toyota's string of recalls began when Toyota and the NHTSA received numerous complaints about faulty accelerator pedals that caused the cars to suddenly accelerate, sometimes resulting in injury or fatal crashes. Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles of various models. Toyota stated that the accelerator pedals were getting trapped in floor mats. It devised a fix for the problem, which many owners believe did not solve the safety issue.
January 2010. Toyota recalled another 2.3 million vehicles, now stating that the accelerator pedals themselves were faulty due to problems with an electronic throttle system.
January 26, 2010. Toyota suspended sales and production of eight vehicle models until the company could fix the accelerator pedal problem.
January 27, 2010. Toyota widened the accelerator pedal recall, adding another 1 million vehicles to the recall list.
January 29, 2010. Toyota recalled affected vehicles in Europe.
February 2010. Toyota recalled nearly half a million 2010 Prius vehicles due to braking problems.
Under NHTSA rules, Toyota is obligated to notify all owners of recalled vehicles. If you did not get a notice of recall, but believe your vehicle may be subject to the recall, visit Toyota's Recall Information website (at www.toyota.com/recall) or the federal government recall website (at www.recalls.gov) to see if your vehicle has been recalled.
The NHTSA launched an investigation into Toyota's actions relating to the defective accelerator pedal. On February 19, 2010, the NHTSA announced its determination that Toyota knew of the safety defect, but waited four months before reporting the problem. The NHTSA fined Toyota a whopping $16.375 million for its reporting failure -- the largest fine ever imposed by the NHTSA.
Read on to learn about the lawsuits that have been filed against Toyota over acceleration issues.
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