January 30, 2013

Maryland Auto Safety News: Toyota Recalls More Than 750,000 Vehicles for Potentially Dangerous Airbag Problem

by Lebowitz & Mzhen

Once again, owners of Toyota vehicles have reason to worry about their safety now that more than 750,000 Corolla and Matrix models (2003-2004) have been recalled due to a problem with those vehicles’ airbag control systems, which could result in sudden and unexpected airbag deployment or seatbelt pretensioner operation. It doesn’t take an engineer to understand the implications of a front airbag going off in a driver’s face while operating a car at highway speeds, so for most people this recall is easy to understand: If you own one of the affected models, contact Toyota immediately and get the problem fixed.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, our firm’s aim is to help people who have been injured or severely hurt as a result of a car, truck or motorcycle accident. Vehicle safety recalls usually occur after a problem has been reported to the manufacturer or to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by one or more vehicle owners. With problems like the one announced by Toyota today, there is a high likelihood that someone could be hurt or killed by this apparently serious defect.

Individuals affected by this type of product-related problem may have grounds for a products liability lawsuit, depending on the circumstances and the injuries or property damage resulting from the defect. In general, products liability law starts from the premise that manufacturers of products sold to the public are usually in a much better position than most to prevent faulty products from coming onto the market. Because of their unique position, businesses that allow a dangerous product to enter the marketplace have a responsibility to those injured or otherwise hurt by that item.

When it comes to automobiles, motorcycles and even large commercial vehicles, as drivers we are all affected by a potentially dangerous safety-related defect in any of these types of vehicles. A blown-out tire, faulty brakes, improperly designed steering components or, in this case, a possibly faulty airbag system can result in a driver’s loss of control followed by a severe injury accident or even a fatal roadway collision.

As consumers, we expect the products we buy to be free from dangerous and injurious defects in design, manufacture or workmanship. While we can return a defective product that doesn’t meet our expectations, it is more difficult to regain one’s health following an accident caused by that very same product. This is where a products liability lawsuit can come into play. When there is a personal injury involved, with associated medical bills and rehabilitation expenses, etc., it’s the job of an injury attorney to help the plaintiff’s recover those costs.

In the case of Toyota’s latest debacle, the 752,000 Corolla and Matrix models recalled in the United States represent a significant portion of the nearly 1.3 million vehicles sold worldwide. In addition to the airbag issue in those cars, Toyota also announced a recall of 270,000 Lexus IS sedans (model years: 2006-2012) for a problem with the windshield wipers, which could cease to function without notice.

First and foremost, however, is the airbag problem on those Corollas and Matrix models. According to news reports, the issue involves the cars’ airbag control modules, which could develop a short-circuit thus damaging the electronics. As a result of becoming damaged, the system could inadvertently trigger deployment of the front airbags or unexpected operation of the seatbelt pretensioners.

In the case of an airbag malfunction, it’s conceivable that a driver could be momentarily incapacitated and lose control of his or her vehicle. A crash could easily result, especially at highway speeds or in dense city traffic. Even if the seatbelt pretensioners alone were operated unexpectedly, the driver could be sufficiently surprised that he could momentarily lose his concentration and, again, a traffic accident could result.

This past Monday, based on news articles, a Florida-based Toyota distributor announced a recall of 3,235 cars, which reportedly was initiated to have the affected vehicles’ airbag sensors recalibrated. It wasn’t long ago that Toyota also recalled more than two million cars worldwide for faulty steering and hybrid control systems. Last October, Toyota recalled nearly 7.5 million vehicles for a fire-related concern involving power-window switches; that particular recall was the largest worldwide recall for any auto maker in 16 years.

While Toyota stated that it will be contacting owners of the affected models by mail in the near-term, anyone who is worried about the safety of their Toyota model should contact the company directly at (800) 331-4331 (Toyota owners) or (800) 255-3987 (Lexus owners).


Recall: 752,000 Corolla models, 270,000 Lexus IS sedans; MSN.com; January 30, 2013