FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-01-25
Drivers put a lot of trust in automakers when they purchase vehicles. People rely on auto manufacturers to design and produce vehicles that are safe and reliable. When car makers fail to meet their duty to make safe vehicles, auto accidents happen and people suffer injuries. As such, auto manufacturers are supposed to let consumers know when a problem exists with their products. In December 2012, a federal agency announced that Toyota Motor Corp. will pay record-high civil fines for failing to report defects in some of its vehicles.
Reporting safety defects
Federal law requires auto manufacturers to report known safety defects in their vehicles or when their vehicles do not comply with federal safety standards to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within five days of the time the company knows of the problem. At the beginning of 2012, the data that the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation collected in its Vehicle Owner Questionnaires and Early Warning Reporting system revealed issues with the 2010 Lexus RX 350. Drivers were reporting that the floor mats were trapping the accelerator pedals, causing unintended acceleration.
In May 2012, the NHTSA addressed the floor mat issue with Toyota. In June 2012, Toyota reported to the NHTSA that it was aware of 63 instances of floor mats trapping accelerator pedals in the 2010 model year of the Lexus RX 350 occurring since 2009. The company also announced a safety recall of the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and 450h in order to fix the floor mats.
The NHTSA fined Toyota $17.5 million, the highest fine the federal government has ever collected for an auto recall violation. The company also agreed to change their quality control systems and safety-issue review systems for it operations in the U.S. The company asserted that it agreed to the settlement with the government to resolve the situation speedily, rather than go through a protracted investigation. The company did not admit that it violated U.S. safety regulations.
Past safety issues
Toyota has had several problems with safety issues in its vehicles in the recent past. In 2010, the company paid $48.8 million in fines after three separate investigations into how the company handled recalls for sticky pedals, pedal entrapment and steering relay rod problems. In November 2012, Toyota recalled 2.77 million cars around the world for water pump issues and steering problems.
Talk to a lawyer
When auto manufacturers make vehicles that are unsafe, they need to be held accountable. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by an auto defect, speak with a seasoned personal injury attorney with a history of successfully handling these complicated cases.