Monday, 20 September 2010

Toyota Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit against San Diego family

It all began with the deaths of four people in a fiery car crash in San Diego last year. That accident, which was later blamed on the sudden acceleration of the Toyota-built Lexus, set off a series of recalls that brought the attention of the world to Toyota’s numerous safety problems. The automaker has now settled with the families of the victims of the crash.

Off-duty California highway patrol officer Mark Saylor, his wife, daughter and daughter-in-law were in the Lexus. It was a loaner vehicle from a local Lexus dealership. At some point, the Lexus began to accelerate to uncontrollable speeds. Witnesses reported seeing the wheels burst into flames as Saylor stood on the brakes. The Lexus crashed into an embankment, bursting into flames. All four people in the car were killed instantly. 911 recordings later confirmed that the car had accelerated to high speeds, with the motorist, an experienced driver himself, unable to stop it.

Mark Saylor’s parents, as well as the parents of his wife and brother-in-law, filed wrongful death lawsuits against Toyota. Out of the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed against Toyota, all related to unintended acceleration, these California lawsuits were believed to have the strongest case against Toyota. The company has now settled with the family. However, the Toyota settlement does not include the dealer whose car was involved in the accident.

Since the first recall last year, car accident lawyers in Los Angeles and around the country have filed hundreds of lawsuits against Toyota. The automaker is expected to deny liability in many of these crashes, and blame driver error instead.

There had been murmurs about sudden unintended acceleration in these vehicles even before that deadly accident in San Diego. However, the accident that killed Mark Saylor's family really put the spotlight on the problems that Toyota had, for so long, been brushing under the carpet. All the focus on Toyota’s problems with electronic throttle controls also created a domino effect; with other safety problems with the company's cars now out in the open.

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