In 2009 and 2010, Toyota issued three massive vehicle recalls for more than 10 million vehicles after repeated reports of unintended acceleration that led to owner injuries and death.
The recalls began after a horrifying car crash in Southern California. The first massive crash was in August 2009, when off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor and his family are traveling down Highway 125 when the Lexus ES350 accelerates out of control. A desperate 911 call reveals that the car is traveling more than 100 mph and has “no brakes.” The vehicle then crashes into another car, careens down an embankment, and catches fire. All four of the vehicle’s occupants die in the crash.
Toyota investigated the crash, and claimed the fault was with the floor mats. Floor mats in 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles are recalled. The company also publically apologized to the Saylor family for the sorrowful incident.
However, an article later published in the Los Angeles Times revealed that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) had investigated 9 separate reports of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles in the past decade. While two involve mis-sized floor mats, one involved a trim piece in a Sienna minivan, and six were dismissed due to lack of evidence. The article also claimed that hundreds of complaints had been filed with the government about the acceleration problem, and that at least five additional accidents involving fatalities had been caused by some underlying problem in Toyota’s vehicles.
Toyota continued to deny that any defect in the engine or electrical system existed, but in October 2009, they finally issued a vague vehicle recall notice to Toyota owners, alerting them that the issue would be fixed at dealerships soon. The focus of the vehicle recall was still the gas pedal sticking to the floor mat, but as “an extra measure of confidence,” Toyota instructed its dealerships to update the onboard computers with an override program.
Finally, after a terrible accident in Texas in December 2009, in which all four occupants died, the floor mats were ruled out as the cause of the uncontrolled acceleration, because the vehicle’s owner had put the floor mats in the vehicle’s trunk as instructed.
Toyota and the NHTSA come to an agreement that Toyota will issue vehicle recalls for all affected models and stop selling the vehicles. The company finally, in 2010, began earnest vehicle recalls for models affected by faulty electrical systems that caused uncontrollable acceleration in their vehicles.
Finally, after three years, Toyota looks like it will finally settle the vehicle recall lawsuits related to the 2009-2010 incident.
Toyota Owners’ Payouts in Vehicle Recall Lawsuit Will Vary
US Judge James Selna is weighing final approval of a $1.1 billion settlement. Reportedly, he has already approved a preliminary agreement. The vehicle recall settlement includes $757 million in cash, and $875 million in “non-monetary benefits” to current or former Toyota owners. The “non-monetary benefits” include installation of brake overrides in eligible vehicles.
However, the average Toyota owner who participated in the vehicle recall lawsuit won’t see much in the way of cash payout. If owners choose not to take the brake override update, they could receive between $37.50 and $125 each.
Although Toyota owners may not see much money individually, the lawsuit is the largest settlement in an automobile industry case in US history.
“This agreement is structured in ways that we believe provide significant value to our customers and demonstrate that they can count on Toyota to stand behind our vehicles,” Celeste Migliore, Toyota spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement after the hearing. “We believe that approval of this settlement, as amended, is in the best interests of all affected parties.”
The final settlement approval hearing is scheduled for June 19th.
“Certain difficulties in the plan of allocation of the settlement funds preclude the court’s final approval of the proposed settlement at this time,” Selna said. “The court needs to ensure that class members are compensated to the maximum degree possible.”
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Vehicle Recall Personal Injury Cases
If you have experienced a problem with a defective product in your automobile, especially if a defective part has led to an auto accident or personal injury, and a proper vehicle recall notice has not been issued, you may be entitled to compensation. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We can help you with complicated auto insurance claims, and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve to help you with lost income and medical bills. Our attorneys are licensed to practice in South Carolina, Georgia, and New York. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so contact us today at (803) 252-4800.