Insurer Files Suit Over Toyota Acceleration Claims

Following months of media attention surrounding unintended acceleration accidents in Toyota vehicles, the first of what is expected to be many lawsuits initiated by an insurer has been filed. According to NewsCenter, Allstate Insurance Co has sued Toyota Motor Corporation and is looking for over $3 million it and its affiliates paid in claims over accidents connected to the widely publicized unintended acceleration problem.

The lawsuit was filed last week in the Los Angeles Superior Court and, said Christina Loznicka, Allstate spokeswoman told Reuters, “We are expected to be one of several insurance companies that are taking this action.” Allstate alleges that Toyota ignored evidence pointing to its vehicles’ acceleration problems and that it also did not install a brake override system it stated would have averted accidents, said NewsCenter.

Allstate’s lawsuit—among others—alleges that the unintended acceleration issues originated in a defective electronic throttle system first introduced about a decade ago, said NewsCenter. Allstate also alleged that Toyota “essentially hid the problem,” when it should have recalled or redesigned the defective vehicles, quoted NewsCenter. “This has resulted in numerous claims of instances of property damage and injuries, including in some instances, fatalities,” the suit says, added NewsCenter.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is likely that Toyota vehicles have been involved in about 90 deaths linked to unintended acceleration crashes since 2000. Since last November, Toyota has recalled about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide over floor-mat interference and sticking pedal problems that may lead to incidents of unintended acceleration. Some vehicles are subject to both recalls.

Meanwhile, said NewsCenter, the lawsuit alleges that Allstate and its affiliates paid claims to either policyholders or third parties over unintended acceleration crashes connected to Toyotas that totaled some $3 million. A figure considered a small portion of the $10 billion in potential civil liability the auto giant could expect to face, said NewsCenter. The figure is expected to increase exponentially.

Toyota spokesman Steven Curtis said that while the firm had not seen the lawsuit, “based on reports, we believe the unfounded allegations in this suit have no basis,” quoted NewsCenter. Toyota maintains that the only defect related to unintended acceleration accidents are improperly fitted floor mats and sticking gas pedals; combined these issues have resulted in 5.4 million US vehicles, said NewsCenter.

Despite its assertions, beleaguered Toyota Motor Corporation just settled a lawsuit with the relatives of four family members who were killed in a horrific accident in San Diego that involved California Highway Patrol trooper Mark Saylor (45); his wife, Cleofe (45); Mahala, their 13-year-old daughter; and Chris Lastrella (38), their brother-in-law; all four perished, said Detroit News previously.

Details of the chilling accident included 911 tapes of the family asking one another to pray just before their deaths in an out-of-control 2009 Lexus that plummeted over an embankment and burst into flames. The accident led to Toyota’s recall of vehicles over concerns of sudden acceleration. But, still Toyota blames acceleration problems on driver error, but consumer advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have long alleged that they are the result of a defect in the vehicles’ electronic throttle control system.

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