February 28, 2011

Family to Proceed with Illinois Auto Products Liability Lawsuit Despite NASA & NHTSA Findings that Electronic Flaws Did Not Cause Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Even though a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study has found that electronic flaws are not to blame for the many sudden unintended acceleration crashes involving Toyota vehicles, the family of Leon Przybylowski say that they plan to proceed with their Illinois auto products liability lawsuit over his wrongful death.

Przybylowski, an 87-year-old Streamwood resident, died in May 2010 when his Toyota Corolla suddenly accelerated in a South Elgin strip mall, causing it to hit a parked auto and a wall. His family filed an Illinois wrongful death complaint in November—one of 400 auto products liability lawsuits against Toyota blaming defective electronics.

Now, however, the NHTSA’s study, which was put together with the help of NASA engineers, has found that instead of electronic flaws, mechanical and human errors may have been responsible. Przybylowski’s family they are not convinced. His Toyota Corolla was one of the vehicles that were recalled for faulty engine control modules. At the time, Toyota said the safety issue might cause engine failure or harsh shifting.

Last week, Toyota Motor Corp. recalled another 2.17 million autos because of floor mat and accelerator pedal entrapment issues—two other causes of sudden unintended acceleration accidents that were previously cited. A Toyota or Lexus with this safety issue might accelerate out of control suddenly if the accelerator were to get stuck in the floor mat. Meantime, NHTSA says it is closing its probe into the matter of pedal entrapment and it is satisfied with how Toyota has handled this problem.

Family undeterred by report on Toyota issues, Chicago Tribune, February 23, 2011

Toyota Corolla Driver's Alleged Unintended Acceleration Accident Caught on Security Camera, MYFoxChicago, November 10, 2010

Related Web Resources:
NHTSA-NASA Study of Unintended Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles, NHTSA

Toyota recalls 2.1 million vehicles in U.S. over acceleration, Washington Post, February 24, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Following Toyota Recall of 2.3 Million Vehicles Over Gas Pedal Defect, Automaker Places Temporary Stop on Sale of Eight Car Models, Chicago Car Accident Attorneys Blog, January 26, 2010

Toyota Sudden Acceleration Blamed for Over 100 Traffic Deaths, Chicago Car Accident Attorneys Blog, March 26, 2010

Toyota Has Known About Deadly Floor Mats for Two Years, Reports New York Times, Chicago Car Accident Attorneys Blog, October 1, 2009

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October 21, 2010

Toyota Recalls 1.53 Million Autos Over Fuel Pump and Brake Fluid Problems

Toyota is issuing yet another recall. This one involves 1.53 million autos from around the world. The recall involves a problem with the brake master cylinder, which can cause a fluid leak and result in a decreased braking power. There also is an electric fault with the fuel pump, which can lead to engine problems. Approximately 740,000 of the recalled cars are in the US. The non-hybrid Highlander (2004 – 2006 models), Avalon (2005-2006 model), Lexus RX 330 (2004-2006 models), and the Lexus GS3 300, IS 350, and the IS 250 (2006 model) are the vehicles included in the recall.

In just over a year, Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles because of numerous safety issues and auto defects, including sudden unintended acceleration, sticky gas pedals, ill-fitting floor mats, engine problems, brake problems, and other issues. The automaker, once known for making some of the safest cares in the world, has definitely seen its reputation take a beating amidst allegations that it placed people’s safety in jeopardy.

It's sudden acceleration safety issue alone is being pointed to as the cause of over 100 motor vehicle deaths. Earlier this year the NHTSA fined $16.375 million—for waiting too long (almost four months) to notify the safety agency about a dangerous gas pedal defect. Toyota President Akio Toyoda has promised to improve customer service and quality, accelerate recall decisions, and pay greater attention to customer complaints.

Chicago Auto Products Liability
If you or someone you love was in a Chicago car accident involving a vehicle that you believe has a defective auto part, you may have grounds for filing an Illinois products liability case against the manufacturer. Remember that the vehicle doesn’t need to have been recalled for there to be a defect. In many cases, recalls aren’t issued until the problem has been brought to light as a result of a previous traffic crash.

Examples of Auto Defects and Safety Issues:
• Brake problems
• Sudden unintended acceleration
• Seat belt defects
• Seatback defects
• Sudden unintended acceleration
• Floor mat issues
• Tire failure
• Rollover issues
• Airbag problems
• Structural defects
• Window defects
• Design defects related to 15-passenger vans

1.5 Million Toyotas Recalled for Brake and Fuel Pump Problems, The New York Times, October 21, 2010

Statement from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Toyota's Agreement to Pay Maximum Civil Penalty, NHTSA, April 19, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Toyota Motor Corporation


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September 16, 2010

NHTSA Reports 911 Illinois Traffic Fatalities in 2009

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes Research Note is out, and our Chicago car accident lawyers are happy to report that the number of Illinois traffic deaths dropped last year. While there were 1,043 Illinois motor vehicle fatalities in 2008, 911 Illinois traffic deaths occured in 2009. 319 of those fatalities were alcohol-related.

The decline in highway deaths was also reflected nationally. There were 33,808 US motor vehicle traffic crash deaths last year—the lowest number of fatalities in 60 years. Consider that there were 37,423 traffic deaths in 2008. That’s a 9.7% drop. Even the number of US motorcyclist fatalities, which has been going up for the last 11 years, finally saw a decline. There were 4,462 motorcycle crash deaths last year, down from 5,312 fatalities in 2008.

While any decline in traffic deaths is always progress made in saving lives, there are always more lives that can and should be saved. There also continue to be thousands nationally and hundreds throughout the state that must contend with catastrophic injuries, costly medical expenses, the loss of a loved one, and other damages. Our Chicago car crash law firm would be happy to evaluate whether you have a case for Cook County personal injury or wrongful death.

More 2009 Motor Vehicle Crash Facts:
• 503 large truck fatalities
• 4,092 pedestrian deaths
• 630 pedalcyclist fatalities
• 2,217,000 traffic accident injuries
• 10,839 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities

Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes, NHTSA (PDF)

U.S. Traffic Deaths at Lowest Level Since 1950, NHTSA, September 9, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Illinois Department of Transportation

CyberDrive Illinois

September 7, 2010

Chicago Car Accidents Injures Kills Six People and Injures at Least Two Dozen Others Over Labor Day Weekend

According to myFoxChicago.com, numerous Chicago motor vehicle injuries and deaths occurred over the Labor Day weekend, including:

• On Saturday, a Chicago motorcycle accident claimed the life of Lyons resident Lissette Loncola, who was a passenger on the bike. Several other people were injured.

• Also on Saturday, a three-vehicle Chicago car accident on the Northwest Side injured at least eight people. Oscar Reyes was cited for negligent driving, leaving an accident scene, failure to report the auto crash, and neglecting to stay in the lane.

• A Chicago pedestrian accident sent four people, including an 11-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy, and a 12-year-old girl to the hospital after they were struck by a stolen 1999 Chrysler 300. The people riding in the car fled the crash site.

• 67-year-old Lual Mang died from injuries she sustained during a Glendale Heights car accident on Sunday.

• Also on Sunday, a Rogers Park bicycle accident involving a Mini Cooper claimed the life of 67-year-old man.

• A fiery Englewood car crash on Sunday claimed the life of one female motorist, whose vehicle hit a curb or a viaduct wall before hitting another auto and bursting into flames. The driver died at the Chicago car accident site.

• Five people, including at least three teens, were hospitalized after an SUV rollover crash on Lake Shore Drive. Speed was a likely factor.

• A multi-vehicle Chicago car crash at West Belmont Avenue and North Pulaski Road left at least three people with critical injuries.

• On Monday night, a Des Plaines bicycle accident claimed a 52-year-old cyclist’s life after his bike collided with a vehicle in the curb lane.

• A man was flown to the hospital after he was injured in a head-on Chicago car accident close to Fox Lake last night.

Holiday Weekend Crashes Kill 6, Injure Dozens More, myFoxChicago, September 7, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Traffic Accidents, Nolo

Car Accidents, Justia

Continue reading "Chicago Car Accidents Injures Kills Six People and Injures at Least Two Dozen Others Over Labor Day Weekend" »

March 26, 2010

Toyota Sudden Acceleration Blamed for Over 100 Traffic Deaths

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 102 fatalities involving Toyota car crashes may have been caused by sudden acceleration. The Los Angeles Times reports that is almost double the number of Toyota acceleration-related deaths—56 fatalities—that were reported at the end of January.

The complaints started to flood in following the recalls of over 8.5 million Toyota vehicles over sudden acceleration concerns caused by sticking gas pedals and ill-fitting floor mats. Meantime, the automaker remains adamant that there are no electronic problems that have contributed to the unintended acceleration accidents.

According to the Times, Clarence Ditlow, from the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, says that he thinks that in the next several months hundreds more Toyota acceleration deaths will be reported. It may be that many people who thought driver negligence was the cause of a car crash are now discovering that the culprit was actually a vehicle defect. Among the recent Toyota products liability lawsuits that have been filed:

Nancy and Daniel Murtha are suing Toyota over the wrongful death of their 5-year-old son. Jacob Murtha died during a Lexus acceleration crash in July 2008. Nancy, who was driving the vehicle, sustained serous injuries when the car accelerated suddenly, forcing her to drive into a rock wall.

Barbrara Green filed a Toyota acceleration lawsuit accusing the automaker of causing the wrongful death of her son, Blazej Ignatowicz. He died in December 2006 when his Toyota Solara sped up to 100 mph, causing him to loose control of the vehicle and crash into a number of trees.

The parents of Mark Saylor and his wife are also suing Toyota. Saylor, his wife, their daughter, and his brother-in-law died last August when the Lexus they borrowed from the dealer accelerated out of control because the gas pedal got caught in the floor mat. It was after their deaths that Toyota began announcing a wave of massive vehicle recalls.

Toyotas' sudden acceleration blamed for more deaths, Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2010

Westchester County, New York Parents File Suit Against Toyota for Death of Their Five-Year-Old Son in Lexus Sudden Acceleration Incident, Marketwatch, March 18, 2010

Saylor relatives suing Toyota, dealers, SignonSanDiego, March 2, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Toyota Motor Corp.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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March 17, 2010

Illinois Auto Products Liability: Woman Blames Ford for Husband’s Wrongful Death

A Clinton County, Illinois woman is suing Ford Motor Company and Wiegman Motor Company for over $800,000. Frances A. Therion claims that a 2004 Ford Freestar contributed to her husband's wrongful death. Joseph W. Therion was seriously injured during a Helvetia, Illinois car accident on December 24, 2008 when another car that failed to stop on Illinois Route 160 hit his vehicle. Even though Joseph was using a seat belt, he was seriously injured and had to have his spleen taken out. He fell into a coma and eventually died.

Now, Joseph’s widow, Frances Therion, is claiming that the Freestar’s defective design and improper manufacture, including the lack of side curtain, side head, and torso airbags, inadequate roof crush strength, and inadequate restraint, contributed to his Illinois wrongful death.

She is suing Wiegman because her husband bought the Freestar from the company. She says that the vehicle was defective when he purchased it.

Illinois Auto Products Liability
Not only must auto manufacturers must make sure that there are no defects in a vehicle that can cause the auto to malfunction, but they must also ensure that the proper protections are in place to protect vehicle occupants from injury in the event of a car crash. Failure to provide properly designed and functioning seat belts, airbags, and other safety devices can be grounds for a Chicago, Illinois auto products liability complaint if injuries or deaths occur as a result of the car manufacturer’s negligence.

Woman claims Ford responsible for husband's death in Freestar crash, The Record, March 16, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Safercar.gov, NHTSA

Ford Motor Company

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March 5, 2010

Cook County Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames Tire Defect for Fatal Van Rollover that Killed Father and Son

A Cook County woman who lost her husband and son when the 1984 Chevrolet Astro Van they were riding in rolled over on March 3, 2009 in Mexico is suing the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. Alicia Mendoza and Roberta Graff filed their Cook County wrongful death lawsuit over the deaths of Jose L. Mendoza Sr., Jose Mendoza Jr., and Leonardo Medina. Graff submitted the complaint on behalf of Medina.

According to their Illinois wrongful death complaint, the catastrophic van accident happened because of a tire defect that resulted in tire tread separation and failure.

Also named as defendants in the Illinois wrongful death complaint are Martha and Ruben Mendoza. They lent the van to the deceased. The lawsuit is seeking over $300,000 from the Mendozas and over $600,000 from the tire company.

Common Kinds of Tire Defects:

• Tire failure
• Tread separation
• Tire blowouts
• Rim blasts
• Tire explosions

Tire issues can occur because of design flaws, manufacturing defect, or due to negligence during installation/repair. In the event that a tire blowout happens or tread separation occurs, there is a good chance that a driver can lose control of the vehicle, causing the auto to crash into other cars or roll over. Spinal cord injuries, head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, quadriplegia, paraplegia, and death can result.

Tire manufacturers, retailers, and tire repair and installation shops are supposed to make sure that tires are in proper working condition, no defects exist, and no maintenance errors are made that can cause a tire-relate crash to occur. Injured parties may have grounds for filing a Chicago, Illinois defective tire lawsuit or wrongful death complaint.

Suit: Defective tire led to triple-fatal crash, Chicago Sun-TImes, February 26, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Products Liability, Justia

Motor Vehicles, Recalls.gov

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January 26, 2010

Following Toyota Recall of 2.3 Million Vehicles Over Gas Pedal Defect, Automaker Places Temporary Stop on Sale of Eight Car Models

Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. is asking car dealers to temporarily stop selling eight of its vehicle models. The suspension is part of the steps the automaker is taking to deal with a problem that can cause the gas pedal to stick.

Last week, Toyota recalled about 2.3 million autos over the accelerator defect, which it says is a separate issue from the one that prompted its recall of 4.2 million Lexus and Toyota vehicles last November. That recall was issued because of concern that a loose floor mat on the driver’s side could cause the gas pedal to jam and the vehicle to accelerate to extremely high speeds. Our Chicago auto products liability lawyers have been following that auto defect story in our Chicago, Illinois car accident blog site.

Since last year’s massive Toyota recall, ABC News reports that there have been over 60 new incidents involving runaway Toyotas, including one fatal car crash that killed four people on December 26. The floor mats were not a factor in that collision.

Vehicles that are part of this latest recall in include Toyota’s:

• Sequoia: ’08 – ’10 models
• RAV4: ’09 – ’10 models
• Matrix: ’09– ’10 models
• Tundra: ’07 – ’10 models
• Corolla: ’09 – ‘10 models
• Avalon: ’05 –’10 models
• Pontiac Vibe: ‘09 model
• Highlander: ’10 model
• Camry: ’07 – ’10 models

Gas pedal defects, poorly fitting floor mats, faulty seat belts, defective air bags, weak roofs, seatback malfunctions, defective tires, engine malfunctions, and faulty breaks are auto defects that can cause serious injuries and deaths.

Toyota Recall Prompts Automaker to Suspend Sales, CNN, January 26, 2010

TOYOTA RECALL: Reports of Runaway Cars, ABC News, January 21, 2010

Toyota Recalls Millions of Motor Vehicles, MyFoxLA.com, January 21, 2010

Related Web Resource:
Toyota Motor Corp.

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November 23, 2009

Chicago Products Liability?: KidsandCars.Org Says Tens of Millions of People Injured by Motor Vehicle Power Windows

Contrary to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s findings that less than 2,000 people a year are injured by power windows, KidsAndCars.org has released research showing that tens of millions of vehicle occupants have been injured by these automatic windows. Harris Interactive administered the research, which was commissioned by KidsandCars.org, in October. Among the findings:

• More than 22 million US adults say they were hurt or know someone who was injured in a power window accident.
• Over 13 million adults say they hurt someone by shutting a car window.
• Over 10 million adults say they got hurt when someone else shut a vehicle window.

Basing its conclusions on its own findings, the NHTSA recently stated in its proposed rulemaking that auto reversing systems don’t have to be mandated. Now, KidsandCars.org wants NHTSA to make sure that ARS are required on all vehicles sold in this country. ARS stops a window from shutting when anything obstructs its path.

Auto manufacturers are aware that power windows can cause serious personal injury. It is their responsibility to design and manufacture auto parts in a manner that doesn't increase the chances of injury or death. Not installing ARS is one way to manufacture a power window that can cause accidental injury or death. Allowing the window to be raised via toggle switch can be dangerous as well, especially if a young child accidentally leans on it while sticking his or her head or finger out the window as it closes.

The majority of power windows use an upward force of 30 to 80 pounds. Only 22 pounds of force are required to hurt or suffocate a baby. The NHTSA and KidsandCars.org are both in agreement that about five kids a year are killed in power-window accidents.

A car manufacturer can be held liable for Illinois products liability if a person is injured by a defective auto part.

New Data Refutes NHTSA Findings, Exposes Real Danger of Vehicle Power Windows, Reuters, November 2, 2009

Power Windows Pose Great Risk to Children, Says Consumer Group, The New York Times, November 2, 2009

Related Web Resources:

Kids and Cars


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November 6, 2009

Auto Products Liability: NHTSA Rebukes Toyota’s Statement Claiming "No Defect" Related to 3.8 Million Vehicles Recalled Following Fatal Floor Mat Crash

Contrary to statements by Toyota Motor Corp. that the 3.8 million autos they recently recalled have no defects, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is claiming otherwise. The car manufacturer had put out a statement saying that the vehicles with floor mats that are compatible with the auto and are properly secured and contain “no defect.” The auto manufacturer’s massive recall was announced after a family died on August 28 while riding in a Lexus that sped out of control.

On Wednesday, the NHTSA called Toyota’s statements that the recalled vehicles weren’t defective “misleading” and “inaccurate” and said that the affected Lexus and Toyota vehicles have an “underlying defect” involving the driver’s foot well and the accelerator pad design. NHTSA says that the design of the accelerator pad could have increased the likelihood it would get caught in the floor mat.

Mark Saylor, his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law were riding a 2009 Lexus ES 350 when the vehicle accelerated to extremely high speeds and the brakes appeared to have stopped working. It turns out that the reason the brakes couldn’t stop the car was because the gas pedal had gotten entangled in the floor mat, which was improperly installed and not even designed for use with this particular Lexus.

Toyota has since responded to the NHTSA’s rebuke saying it never intended to mislead or provide information that wasn’t accurate. Toyota says it is working to provide “vehicle-based” solutions to prevent unintended vehicle acceleration from happening.

Toyota has chosen to focus on the floor mat issue as the cause of the tragic crash. The auto manufacturer also disagreed with news accounts that the unintended acceleration may be related to electronic throttle control systems and other factors. It also refuted suggestions that the vehicle’s brake systems, engine control systems, or electronic interference may have caused the accidental acceleration.

Yet according to one family whose Toyota Highlander suddenly sped up to almost 100 miles per hour, their vehicle does not have the floor mat that is part of the recall.

It is an auto manufacturer’s responsibility to make sure that their vehicles do not contain any defects that could cause serious injury or death. Carmakers must warn of possible safety hazards or they can be held liable for Chicago, Illinois auto products liability if an injury accident happens.

Regulators slam Toyota over 'no defect' claim, Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2009

ABC News investigates Toyota floor mats, ABC7, November 3, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Toyota/Lexus Consumer Safety Advisory: Potential Floor Mat Interference with Accelerator Pedal, Toyota.com, September 29, 2009

4 Killed In Fiery Santee Crash Believed Identified, 10News, August 28, 2009

Continue reading "Auto Products Liability: NHTSA Rebukes Toyota’s Statement Claiming "No Defect" Related to 3.8 Million Vehicles Recalled Following Fatal Floor Mat Crash" »

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October 13, 2009

Are Electric Cars a Danger to Chicago Pedestrians?

There is growing concern among some groups that electric cars can be a danger to pedestrians because their near-silent sound may make them hard to hear. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in the process of examining data about car accidents involving hybrid vehicles and pedestrians and will issue its final report in January 2010.

Blind people may be especially susceptible to pedestrian accidents involving Hybrid cars. This is one reason the The National Federation of the Blind is calling on carmakers to design plug-in electric autos and hybrids that emit some type of noise.

Last summer, a blind woman’s cane was run over and broken by what she believes was a hybrid auto. Considering that millions of hybrid and electric vehicles are expected on streets within the next few years, making sure that people can hear them approach could save lives and prevent car manufacturers from becoming defendants of auto products liability and wrongful death lawsuits. Deaf pedestrian may also be at greater risk of becoming involved in a Chicago car accident with a hybrid or electric car than people who have all of their senses intact.

Some carmakers are already attempting to address this possible hazard. According to Bloomberg.com, Nissan is trying to come up with a sound system that would automatically activate when the car is started and wouldn’t shut off until it was traveling at a speed of at least 12 mph.

With so many commuters and tourists in Chicago, pedestrian accidents occur more often than we would like to think. Even if you are not from the area and you were injured in a Chicago car accident, you may be entitled to Chicago personal injury recovery.

Addressing the danger of too-quiet electric cars, with a little help from Blade Runner, Smart Planet, September 21, 2009

Safety experts fear electric cars too quiet, Kansas City Star, September 25, 2009

Related Web Resources:

City of Chicago Pedestrian Program

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October 1, 2009

Toyota Has Known About Deadly Floor Mats for Two Years, Reports New York Times

This week, Toyota, the largest automaker in the world, announced that it is going to recall 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles because the motor vehicle’s floor mats can cause accelerator to get stuck. That’s what investigators believe happened last month in the Lexus that Mark Saylor, his wife Cleofe, their teenager daughter Mahala, and his brother-in-law Chris Lastrella were riding.

During a 911 call made from the Lexus ES 350, one of the passengers exclaimed that the brakes did not appear to be working. All four vehicle occupants died after the auto, which was moving at high speeds, struck another vehicle, crashed through a fence, bounced off a dirt embankment, flew off the ground, and landed close to a riverbed before catching fire.

Toyota says that preliminary data from the tragic crash probe indicates that the all-weather floor mat on the driver’s may have been installed improperly, which allowed the mat to interfere with the accelerated pedal.

According to the federal government, five deaths, 17 injuries, and 13 car crashes have been linked to Toyota floor mats. Over 100 related complaints have been filed.

The New York Times is reporting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota have known about this floor mat problem for a couple years. As a matter of fact, Toyota recalled a number of all-weather floor mats in 2007.

The NHTSA’s investigation in 2007 found that there were problems with the Toyota accelerator pad’s design and the optional all-weather, rubber floor mats. According to a NHTSA test center, the accelerator pad’s design allows it to easily become entrapped in the floor mat’s groove if the mat isn’t secured correctly. The test center’s report went on to say that if the accelerator pad did get stuck, the driver’s ability to brake could be reduced significantly.

Car manufacturers can be held liable for auto products liability if someone is seriously injured or dies in a Chicago car accident because the automaker made a mistake and designed a vehicle or auto part with a defect that caused or contributed to the deadly Illinois auto crash.

Toyota Floor-Mat Problem Was Known Two Years Ago, NY Times, October 1, 2009

Toyota recall: 3.8 million cars with risky floor mats, CNN, September 30, 2009

Floor Mats the Focus of Deadly Lexus Crash, NBC San Diego, September 10, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Toyota Motor Corporation

Defects & Recalls, NHTSA

Continue reading "Toyota Has Known About Deadly Floor Mats for Two Years, Reports New York Times" »

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September 18, 2009

Preventing Chicago Car Accidents: With Seat Belt Use in 2009 at 84%, Safety Restraint Systems Cannot Afford to Have Defects

According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, seat belt use this year is at 84%. This is a 1% increase from 2007's seat belt use. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis conducted NOPUS.

Per the survey:
• US states where vehicle occupants are more likely to get pulled over for not wearing seat belts had a higher seat belt use rate than states with less strict seat belt regulations.
• Seat belt use on expressways is at 90% and 81% on surface streets.
• Seat belt use in passenger cars is 86%, 87% in vans and SUVs, and 74% in pickup trucks.
• Seat belt use on weekdays is 83%.
• Seat belt use on weekends is at 86%.

With so many people using seat belts, it is important that these safety devices be free from defects so that they are able to properly protect wearers in the event of a motor vehicle crash. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and our Chicago car accident lawyers have represented injury victims with defective seat belt claims against auto manufacturers and seat belt makers.

Common kinds of seat belt defects that can be grounds for a Chicago products liability complaint:

• Torn webbing
• Ribbed webbing
• Inertial unlatching
• Failed retractor
• Lap-only seat belts

Defective seat belts can lead to catastrophic car accident injuries. If a person using the seat belt is involved in a Chicago car accident and the safety restraint system malfunctions, the vehicle occupant could get thrown into the front or side windows, get ejected from the motor vehicle, or sustain a serious traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury if the roof crushes inward during a rollover accident.

Seat Belt Use in 2009, NHTSA, September 2009 (PDF)

Related Web Resources:
Safety advocates seek more seat belt use, USA Today, June 14, 2009

Seat Belts, Why You Should Use Them, OSU EHS

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September 4, 2009

Will Chicago Auto Products Liability Plaintiffs Have to Reopen Their Toyota Rollover Lawsuits?

Chicago auto products liability lawyers are watching and waiting to discover if indeed the allegations brought by a former Toyota lawyer who is accusing the automaker of concealing key evidence and information in hundreds of rollover lawsuits are true. If so, a number of Toyota rollover lawsuits that were either settled or with verdicts that came out in favor of the carmaker may have to be reopened.

Last July, Dimitrios Biller sued the his former employer for wrongful termination. He says Toyota made him resign because he disagreed with the way they allegedly mishandled key evidence in over 300 personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Biller, who was given a $3.7 million severance package in 2007, is now ready to talk about why he says he was let go.

Biller worked for the world’s biggest automaker from 2003 to 2007. While employed by Toyota, he defended the company against rollover lawsuits filed by plaintiffs and the loved ones of victims that died in catastrophic traffic crashes.

Biller is accusing Toyota of keeping electronically stored data from plaintiffs instead of turning over the information to their products liability lawyers. He also says that Toyota destroyed documents about roof crush issues that were relevant to these cases.

Biller claims that Toyota withheld records about the testing and the designs of vehicle roofs. He says the carmaker has never come up with a document to prove that its roof strength standard is tougher than the federal government’s requirement. Bill claims that currently, there are people who are driving Toyota vehicles that fail to meet the carmaker's own internal standard.

The allegations that Biller is making against Toyota are serious and could impact the outcome of hundreds of products liability cases that were already closed. Our Chicago SUV rollover accident law firm will be watching closely to determine if indeed Toyota has been keeping key information from plaintiffs who perhaps should have received a larger recovery for their injuries, pain and suffering, and losses.

Rollover accidents continue to claim many lives in the US on a regular basis. This is why automakers must design their vehicles in a manner that decreases the chances of a rollover accident and if a rollover crash does happen, the vehicle’s roof should be sturdy enough so that it doesn’t crush inward to cause serious injury or death to vehicle occupants that are secured by their seat belts.

Toyota Accused of Hiding Evidence, CBS News, August 29, 2009

Toyota May Face Push to Reopen Rollover-Crash Cases, Bloomberg, September 1, 2009

Toyota Accused of Concealing Evidence in Rollover Lawsuits, NY TImes, August 31, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Car Accidents, Justia

Rollover and Roof Crush, IIHS

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May 29, 2009

Chicago Motor Vehicle Accidents: NHTSA Warns 15-Passenger Van Riders of Rollover Dangers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reminding 15-passenger van users to drive carefully and exercise the proper safety precautions to prevent a tragic rollover accident from happening. Studies show that these large vehicles are at higher risk than passenger vehicles of rolling over—especially when fully loaded with luggage and passengers.

The NHTSA has reported that more deadly 15-passenger van accidents occur between the months of June through August than any other time of the year because the US summer months are usually when many families and other groups tend to travel together.

Latest NHTSA 15-Passenger Van Statistics:

• 15-passenger van occupant fatalities increased by almost 20% between 2006 and 2007.
• 15-passenger van drivers made up approximately 25% of these fatalities between 2003 and 2007.
• 45 peopled died in 15-passenger van rollovers—a 73% increase from 2006.
• Approximately 80% of people killed in 15-passenger van accidents over the past 5 years were not wearing seatbelts.

It doesn’t help that 15-passenger vans are designed in a way that loading the vehicle can result in its center of gravity shifting toward the rear, which increases the likelihood that the driver will lose control of the van during an emergency situation or that a rollover accident will happen. It is important to note that vehicle manufacturers are responsible for making sure that their motor vehicles are designed in such a way that the chances of a rollover or another deadly accident happening are decreased rather than increased. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be grounds for a products liability lawsuit in the event of a Chicago car accident.

That said, 15-passenger van drivers, like all motor vehicle operators responsible for transporting large groups of people on the road, must have the experience to safely operate such a large vehicle.

Consumer Advisory: Federal Government Restates Rollover Warning for 15-Passenger Vans Users, NHTSA, May 20, 2009

Fatalities to Occupants of 15-Passenger Vans, 2003 - 2007, NHTSA (PDF)

Related Web Resources:

15-Passenger Van Safety Hazard Information, Public Citizen

Continue reading "Chicago Motor Vehicle Accidents: NHTSA Warns 15-Passenger Van Riders of Rollover Dangers" »

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May 19, 2009

Preventing Chicago Car Accident Injuries and Deaths: Illinois State Police Tell Drivers and Vehicle Occupants to Either Buckle Up and “Click It or Ticket”

Throughout Illinois, police officers are telling motor vehicle riders to “Click It or Ticket.” Their efforts are part of a nationwide campaign, running from May 18 to 31, to remind people that they need to wear seat belts—or else face getting slapped with a ticket for the violation.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, seat belt use throughout the state was at 90.5% in 2008—up from 88% in 2006—with Illinois motor vehicle deaths dropping by 211 for this same time period. These figures are positive progress, considering that the US Department of Transportation has released new information revealing that 22,372 serious traffic injuries and 1,652 traffic deaths could be avoided annually if each US state logged in a seat belt use rate of 90%. Currently, the national seat belt use rate is 83%. This means that 1 out of every 5 vehicle occupants in the US is still not buckling up 100% of the time.

2007 data reveals that 15,147 lives were saved that year because people were using seat belts. Safety belts, however, can only be effective if they are working properly and free from defects. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and car makers and seat belt manufacturers have had to recall motor vehicles because a seat belt defect was discovered—in many cases, after someone got hurt or died in an auto accident. Car accident victims and families have filed products liability lawsuits against seat belt makers and auto manufacturers for personal injury and wrongful death because a seat belt became unlatched or malfunctioned in another way during a catastrophic auto crash.

Also, as essential as it is that a person wear a properly working safety belt to decrease the chances of injury or death, there are still many motor vehicle crashes that occur in Chicago, the rest of Illinois, and throughout the US that claim the lives of seat belt users because a motorist or another party was negligent.

Research Kicks Off 'Click It or Ticket' Nationwide Enforcement Campaign Set To Run May 18-31, NHTSA, May 14, 2009

Illinois State Police launch 'Click it or Ticket' initiative, WREX, May 14, 2009

Related Web Resources:
The Increase in Lives Saved, Injuries Prevented, and Cost Savings if Seat Belt Use Rose to at Least 90 Percent in All States, NHTSA (PDF)

Safety Restraints, Illinois State Police

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March 30, 2009

With IIHS’ New Auto Safety Rating System Ranking SUV’s According to Roof Strength, Motorists Will Hopefully Buy Autos Less Likely to Cause Injuries and Deaths During Rollover Accidents

This month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety presented consumers with a new rating system for ranking the strength of sport utility vehicles roofs. This will hopefully make it easier for buyers to pick safer cars when making SUV purchases, as well as compel auto manufacturers to make motor vehicles with stronger roofs so as to decrease the number of injuries and deaths that occur during rollover accidents.

The IIHS reports that over 10,000 people a year die in rollover accidents. This most often occurs when the roof of the vehicle gets crushed, ground, or deformed while rolling over. This is why it is so important for auto manufacturers to design SUV’s and other vehicles with strong roofs. Not only are stronger roofs less prone to getting crushed, but they decrease the chances that vehicle occupants will get hurt when they make contact with the roof.

Out of the 12 SUV’s tested (2008 to 2009 models), only four of them earned a “good rating:” The Jeep Patriot, the Honda Element, the Subaru Forester, and the Tiguan, which was rated as having the strongest roof. The Kia Sportage was rated as having the weakest roof, and received a “poor” rating. The Ford Escape and the Honda CR-V received “marginal” marks, and the Mitsubishi Outlander, the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Nissan Rogue, the Chevrolet Equinox, and the Toyota Rav 4 received an “acceptable” rating for the strength of their roofs.

SUV Rollover Accident Facts
Rollover accidents can lead to serious injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, crushed bones, spinal cord injuries, and death. Many times, a rollover injury will occur because an occupant is ejected from a vehicle, smashes into the auto’s front or side windows, or strikes his or her head against the roof.

If you or someone you love was injured in an Illinois auto accident because a driver was negligent or because the vehicle you were riding in was poorly made or defectively designed, please contact our Chicago car accident law firm to discuss your case.

Auto manufacturers are supposed to make sure that their vehicles are properly made and all safety precautions are in place to prevent injuries and deaths from occurring unnecessarily. At the same time, drivers are supposed to be careful and make sure that they don’t drive negligently and cause an auto accident.

Roof strength is focus of new rating system; 4 of 12 small SUVs evaluated earn top marks, IIHS.org, March 24, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Rollover: The Hidden History of the SUV, PBS

SUV Rollover Accident and Death Statistics, Georgia.gov

Roof Strength and Injury Risk in Rollover Crashes of Passenger Cars and SUV's (PDF)

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March 23, 2009

General Motors Recalls Over 270,000 Motor Vehicles

General Motors recalling over 270,000 2009 model motor vehicles because of a shift lever defect. The Chevrolet Malibu, HHR, and Traverse, the Saturn Outlook and Aura, the Pontiac G6 and G5, the Buick Enclave, and the GMC Acadia are included in the recall.

The problem with the shift lever is that when a motorist places it in the ‘Park’ mode in automatic cars, the transmission may not actually be in the ‘Park’ setting, which means the car could roll away if the handbrake hasn’t been activated. Fortunately, many of these vehicles have yet to leave the dealer lots, which means that just approximately 75,000 GM vehicles that were sold will have to be brought back in.

Auto Defects Can Lead to Products Liability
Defective autos and auto parts can result in serious auto accidents and injuries. While many times a recall can save lives before the defect can cause a vehicle to malfunction and cause a serious auto accident, there are those injuries and deaths that do occur because of a defective auto part.

Common yet deadly auto defects:

• Poorly designed vehicle roofs
• Defective tires
• Problems with the seat backs
• Defective gas tanks
• Faulty seat belts
• Defective breaks
• Airbag defects
• Door latch problems
• SUV rollover-related defects
• 15-passenger van-related defects

Auto manufacturers are supposed to make sure that their vehicles and the parts they use will not result in Chicago motor vehicle accidents. When failure to ensure this duty of care results in personal injury or wrongful death, the injured party and his or her family may file an auto products liability claim against the auto maker and/or the motor vehicle parts manufacturer.

GM recalls more than 270,000 vehicles due to faulty shifter, Motor Authority, March 17, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Auto Recalls, Justia

Safety Problems and Issues, NHTSA

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