The Toyota Mess
The recent issues with Toyota automobiles and the revelations regarding Toyota’s knowledge of the problems long before the rest of us were told about them is not news to the lawyers at our firm. For 25 years we have represented families who have had loved ones injured or killed by dangerous defects in their cars yet none of those cases has received the media attention that Toyota has received recently.
The problems associated with defects in automobiles are by no means limited to Toyota. We have had cases against Ford, General Motors, Mercedes, Nissan, Chrysler, Hyundai and others. The defects we have seen include seats that collapse backwards in rear impact collisions, airbags that did not deploy when they should have, gas tanks that ripped open spewing fuel and causing horrific fires, vehicles that rolled over when they should not have, roofs that collapsed, interior components that came loose and skewered drivers through the neck and much more. And in each case, the manufacturer knew about these defects but did nothing about fixing them. They determined that it was simply cheaper to quietly settle the cases than recall the vehicles or redesign the defective component.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is the federal agency charged with overseeing the safety of cars sold in the U.S. NHTSA has promulgated minimum standards that all manufacturers must meet in order to sell cars in the United States but they are often decades old and based on outdated technology. They are slow to react to information of design defects, insist on “studying” the problem for unreasonable periods of time and rarely seize the moment to mandate reasonable quick fixes. For too long NHTSA has been part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Lawyers who have represented families in lawsuits against manufacturers are well aware of the defects in the automobiles we drive and have worked with some of the smartest and most accomplished engineering experts in the world. There are solutions to each of the defects that expose all of us to unreasonable risks of death or serious injury in today’s automobiles. The problem is that the manufacturers too often refuse to listen and view any suggestion of how to make their cars safer as an annoyance that is not worth listening to.
The public pressure being brought to bear on Toyota at the moment is good and will help diagnose the cause of the accelerator and rollover problems more quickly than would otherwise be the case. The scrutiny from the media and Congress, however, will soon fade and once again, defects will be swept from public view and not much will change.
We have seen this happen too many times in the past. If you have questions regarding this or think you have a claim arising from an automobile defect, we may be able to help.