Although Toyota continues to deny any defect in connection with the unintended acceleration lawsuits filed against them, the company has recently agreed to settle a portion of its claims for over $1 billion. The settlement represents the largest in US history involving an alleged automobile defect. This settlement does not apply to individuals who suffered personal injury or the families of those who died in connection with crashes due to alleged unintended acceleration. Instead, the settlement applies to certain current and former Toyota owners who saw the value of the vehicles diminish because of recalls involving alleged unintended acceleration defects in their vehicles. More information on the Toyota settlement, including those who may be entitled to compensation, can be found at: http://www.toyotaelsettlement.com/.
Sudden unintended acceleration occurs when there is an unexpected and uncontrolled acceleration of a vehicle. In some instances, the unintended acceleration is accompanied by a loss of effective braking. Sudden unintended acceleration is not a recent problem, nor is it unique to Toyota vehicles. Crashes causing serious injuries and deaths have been blamed on various alleged defects involving unintended acceleration. The most common causes attributed to unintended acceleration include electrical failures, mechanical failures, and pedal misapplication. The first two problems are commonly blamed on vehicle defects; the latter is associated with driver error. In 2009 and 2010, Toyota recalled over 14 million of its vehicles manufactured between 2007 and 2011 because of concerns related unintended acceleration problems and/or brake defects.
Before Toyota's largest and most publicized recall in January 2010, over twenty deaths were blamed on an alleged defect with certain Toyota defects. There is considerable dispute over whether the any crashes from a pedal problem are due to an electrical problem, a pedal entrapment problem from floor mats, driver error, or other cause. In most if not all personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed against Toyota involving unintended acceleration, Toyota blames the crash on driver error.
Toyota's carefully carved out settlement with owners not injured by unintended acceleration does not resolve the hotly contested personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Both the NHTSA and NASA were unable to replicate an electrical cause to explain unintended acceleration in certain Toyota vehicles. Toyota will undoubtedly attempt to use these studies to say there is no software defect with its electronic control systems since none was found by the government. The plaintiff attorneys suing Toyota will likely argue the government's failure to replicate a defect does not prove there was no defect during any of the crashes involving unintended acceleration. Whether the personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits will settle before trial or whether jury will be asked to ultimately answer these questions remains to be seen.
NBC News Website, Toyota Settles Over Acceleration Problems To Top $1 Billion, December 27, 2012.
Wikipedia, Sudden Unintended Acceleration, Last Updated November 20, 2012.