After a Minnesota man driving a 1996 Toyota Camry crashed into and killed a driver and two passengers in another car in 2006, the man was sentenced to eight years in prison for vehicular homicide. The man has maintained since the day of the accident that his car unexpectedly sped up as he travelled up an interstate onramp and that applying his brakes did not work to slow down his Camry.
When a Michigan woman driving a 2005 Camry slammed into a tree and died in 2008, crash investigators determined the single-car accident was due to driver error. The woman’s family insists that she “vigorously applied her brakes” but could not slow her car down after it suddenly accelerated from 25 mph to 80 mph.
A list of 41 incidents in which people were injured and killed following the sudden and uncontrollable acceleration of Toyota vehicles including Avalons, Corollas, Highlanders, Priuses and Tacomas appears in the online version of the Los Angeles Times. I have singled out the wrecks in Michigan and Minnesota because the recent recalls of more than 8.5 million Toyota and Toyota subsidiary Lexus cars, SUVs and pickup trucks have reopened the investigations into the actual causes of those fatal accidents.
Neither the 1995 nor 2005 Camrys were recalled for the floor mat or mechanical accelerator problems Toyota officials have identified as causes of sudden acceleration in their vehicles. However, if investigators do find defects in those Camrys, the Minnesota man could receive a new trial and the families of the people who lost their lives could have grounds to file wrongful death suits against Toyota. A Michigan court has already ordered company representatives to appear and explain how a problem with the car itself could not have been the reason for the crash that killed the woman.
According to the Associated Press, Toyota is facing at least 89 class action lawsuits related to its admission that some of its cars, SUVs and pickup trucks could run out of control and lead to deaths and injuries. How any of these suits will turn out remains to be seen. What is undeniable, though, is that people harmed by poorly designed, poorly constructed and potentially defective products have the right to seek compensation for any pain or suffering they suffered as a result from those products. If courts and juries find that Toyota acted irresponsibly in selling defective products or acting too slowly to fix known problems with its vehicles, each victim of sudden acceleration in Toyotas and Lexuses deserves justice.