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Toyota to Pay $17.35 Million in Fines for Auto Defects

When motor vehicle accidents happen, it is often the result of the negligent or reckless actions of someone on the road. In some cases no amount of defensive driving, caution, or care can prevent a serious accident from happening, and more times than not, their causes are related to manufacturing defects.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration announced that Toyota Motor Corporation has agreed to pay $17.35 million in fines, the maximum allowable payment under federal law. The fine was levied as a result of the automaker’s failure to report one of their car’s safety defects to the United State’s federal government in a timely manner.

In early 2012, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects and Investigation began following a trend of floor mat pedal entrapment cases among Toyota’s 2010 Lexus RX 350 model. In other words, the car’s gas pedal was sticking and accelerating unexpectedly, which caused and alleged 63 incidents going all the way back to 2009.

As part of the settlement, Toyota Motor Corporation and it’s United States subsidiaries also agreed to make changes to their internal quality control and assurance offices. Toyota hopes to improve safety-related performance in the United States, and improve their cognizance of the consequences that come with safety-related defects.

Under federal laws, an auto manufacturer is required to notify the NHTSA within five business days of any existing defect, and also of any vehicle not in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards so that the NHSTA can act swiftly and implement a recall. “Safety is our highest priority,” said the U.S. Transportation Secretary, “With today’s announcement, I expect Toyota to rigorously reinforce tits commitment to adhering to United States safety regulations.”

In the last six months, Toyota advised the NHTSA that it would recall more than 150,000 Lexus RX 350 and 450h vehicles in response to the problem, and would continue to take actions that would be in the best interest of their customers going forward.

Since 2009, more than 50 million vehicles have been recalled by various auto makers, with some of the most common manufacturing defects being:
• Engine Fires – 1.5 million
• Power Steering – 8.5 million
• Faulty Tires – 6.5 million
• Electric Switch Fires – 14.3 million
• Faulty Airbags – 1 million
• Faulty Seatbelts – 8.9 million
• Loose Suspension Belts – 5.8 million • Transmission – N/A

The majority of defects are recognized and handled promptly, before they can cause harm to motorists. However, thousands of people each year fall victim to accidents caused by defects that slipped through the cracks. (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration)

Since 1992, our attorneys have recovered more than $420 million for our clients and their families in a wide variety of personal injury lawsuits. We have experience fighting for victims of accidents caused by defective vehicle design, including a case where we obtained a $3 million settlement for the families of victims who died in a car fire as a result of an improperly designed fuel delivery system. If you or someone you know has been the victim of an auto accident, whether caused by the negligence of a person or a manufacturer, we will fight for you.