Florida automobile owners expect that their vehicles will run as intended. Because cars are such intricate pieces of machinery, they must meet strict mechanical and safety standards. It’s a scary situation when your car suddenly accelerates – through no fault of your own – while you are driving and causes a fatal accident. That’s what the families of two women allege happened when the Toyota Camry they were riding in accelerated through an intersection and crashed in 2007. The accident injured the 82-year-old driver and killed the 70-year-old passenger.
After Toyota won three trials regarding the acceleration issue, an Oklahoma jury sided with the families on Oct. 25 and awarded the victims’ families $1.5 million each in damages. The next day, Toyota agreed to a settlement after the company learned that the court was about to impose punitive damages. The company wanted to avoid this, since punitive damages can carry much higher awards. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The jury felt that Toyota had acted carelessly, allowing millions of defective products to be sold to consumers. Despite the recalls and government fines, the company still defended its actions and even blamed consumers for the mishaps. Toyota disagreed with the result of the verdict and claimed that it prides itself on manufacturing reliable vehicles.
Toyota now must agree with the verdict or prove that something other than a defect caused the sudden acceleration. The company has had to recall more than 11 million vehicles since 2009 due to the floor mats causing the accelerator to stick. The company settled for $1.6 billion in July. Despite the company’s legal issues, Toyota has still maintained its ground in the automobile industry. It recently reported its highest earnings in the past five years.
Companies have the duty to provide consumers with safe products, and cars are no exception. Although accidents happen, companies still need to take responsibility. Injured consumers have the right to seek legal action and recover damages for injuries and even wrongful death caused by defective products.
The New York Times, “Toyota Agrees to Settlement in Fatal Acceleration Crash” Jaclyn Trop, Oct. 25, 2013