By the time Toyota announced the recall of 3.6 million vehicles in September 2009 to replace defective gas pedals, a California Highway Patrol officer and three members of his family died in a runaway Lexus. Not only did the Lexus he was driving accelerate out of control, but he was unable to use the electronic ignition system to turn off the motor. In all, the government believes that the accelerator problem may have caused at least five deaths and at least 100 incidents.

Toyota attributes the runaway vehicles to a long gas pedal that becomes accidently depressed by floor mats that are too large or are not properly anchored. While this seems plausible, other experts have noted that since Toyota replaced all their mechanical throttle linkage systems in their product line going back to 2002, with electronic “fly-by-wire” systems similar to what’s used in advanced aircraft, the incidents of runaway throttles have increased dramatically. Toyota insists that the problem is isolated to their defective floor mats and the design of the gas pedal. Experts at the NHTSA are continuing to investigate the true source of the defect.

Recalled Toyota Vehicles

Owners of the Lexus ES350, Camry, and Avalon are believed to be the most at risk.

Toyota’s Recommendations
In September, Toyota told consumers to take out the floor mat to prevent the involuntary acceleration problem. In November 2009, Toyota announced that starting in January, dealers will shorten the length of the gas pedals for consumers. Owners can get new pedals beginning in April. The company will install a brake override system, which launched into effect when the accelerator and brake are pressed at the same time, in the Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES350, IS350 and IS250 models.

Consult a Legal Expert
Anyone injured driving a later model Toyota product should consult a legal expert experienced in defective auto product claims. This is a complicated area of the law because a thorough investigation is still required in order to establish the cause and ultimate liability for any injures. Typically, once liability has been established for the defective product an injured person could be eligible to recover financial compensation for lost wages, future lost wages, medical care, pain and suffering and more.