Clash of the auto industry titans! In one corner, we have the embattled Japanese auto giant Toyota, which has recalled nearly nine million vehicles due to alleged unintended acceleration problems. In the other corner is Allstate Insurance Company, which seeks $3 million from Toyota to cover 270 insurance claims Allstate paid that they say were Toyota’s fault.
Allstate’s case against Toyota is very similar to the 100+ cases that have already been filed by motorists who experienced these problems firsthand. “Certain of Toyota’s cars and trucks have a defect that causes sudden uncontrolled acceleration to speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or more,” the complaint reads. It also says that Toyota vehicles are prone to “defective electronics and the absence of a fail-safe, such as a brake-to-idle override system.” Civilian lawsuits against the car company attribute 93 deaths and even more injuries to the mechanical and electrical problems.
The result of Allstate’s lawsuit is likely to have a significant impact for Toyota. If Allstate wins, it could provide the impetus for other insurance companies to file suits. If it loses, it will mark a significant win for the auto company. So far, State Farm and Farmers Insurance have also pursued Toyota with requests that it reimburse certain insurance claims related to recalled Toyota vehicles.
This lawsuit comes amidst steadily improving public perception of Toyota due to a string of reports linking unintended acceleration not to electrical problems, but to driver error. In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blamed 60 percent of the accidents investigated so far on driver error. The next month, the Washington Post penned an editorial which concluded that “electronics was not the issue. Human error was.”
Allstate’s lawsuit adds some weight behind consumers, and against those who assume the majority of lawsuits against Toyota are the result of a “me too!” mentality. So far, Toyota is taking a smart approach to the challenge. “We’re very confident that they won’t find any electronic problems,” said the company’s chief quality officer for North America Steve St. Angelo. “However, they may come up with some improvements we can make.”