Compensation Claims Loom Following Toyota Recall

After a spate of product recalls in the US during 2009, Toyota’s decision to extend some of its most recent recalls to the UK, Europe and China has been made ahead of the first British claim for compensation relating to a defective Toyota vehicle. In September of 2009, Toyota announced the largest recall in its history, which covered an estimated 4 million cars in the US. The decision to announce a recall was made after a defect in certain models of Toyota was identified. The defect related to a mechanical fault that could cause accelerator pedals to become trapped in floor mats, which is clearly extremely dangerous. The recall announced in September last year came shortly after four people were killed near San Diego in what is thought to be the first fatal incident involving this specific Toyota fault. A further recall of around 2.3 million vehicles was made towards the end of January 2010, at which time Toyota had ceased production in the US.

In Europe and the UK, moves to announce a recall were less than immediate; in fact, it was not until the beginning of February that Toyota issued a recall of 180,865 affected models in Britain, whilst it is thought that some 1.8 million vehicles in total will be affected across Europe. In the UK, details of the 180,865 affected Toyota models were passed to the DVLA in hope of tracking down the owners, whose lives are clearly at risk until the mechanical fault is repaired – a process that should take no longer than 30 minutes at an approved Toyota centre. Although Toyota has announced that it is unaware of any accidents having occurred in the UK as a result of the mechanical defect, the Guardian online news service has since reported details of the first compensation claim to have been made in Britain as a result of the fault.

According to the Guardian report, solicitors acting on behalf of the unnamed claimant filed a claim for compensation against Toyota on or around the 4th February 2010. It is alleged that the claimant was driving his Toyota when the accelerator pedal became stuck, which caused him to accelerate unexpectedly and subsequently crash into a wall at approximately 30mph. Whilst the claimant should consider himself fortunate in so far as the crash occurred at a relatively low speed, he sustained significant head injuries in the accident. It is unlikely that this particular case will be the only one of its kind faced by Toyota, with the potential for an avalanche of personal injury claims on the global front. As if the Japanese car manufacturer did not already have enough problems to deal with, fresh reports of a brake defect affecting the Prius hybrid model were announced last week – a fault that is arguably just as bad as a stuck accelerator pedal, if not worse.

Regarding the accelerator pedal fault, Toyota has insisted that the affected vehicles remain safe but require immediate repair. Clearly, a car that is subject to a defective accelerator pedal could never be classed as safe with any degree of reliability, so Toyota’s claims to the contrary should be met with caution; indeed, lawyers representing injured parties on both sides of the Atlantic have urged the owners of affected Toyota vehicles to stop driving them immediately. Affected UK and European models (manufacturing dates parenthesised) include: AYGO MMT (Feb’05-Aug’09), iQ (Nov’08-’09), Yaris (Nov’05-Sep’09), Auris (Oct’06-Jan’10), Corolla (Oct’06-Dec’09), Verso (Feb’09-Jan’10) and Avensis (Nov’08-Dec’09).

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