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April 20, 2010

Government safety regulators are thinking about levying additional fines against Toyota Motor Corporation for failing to alert them in a timely manner about sticking gas pedals. The fines would be in addition to the previously announced $16.4 million penalty announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently. The NHTSA sent Toyota a letter notifying the company of the possibility of additional fines when it learned of internal Toyota memos that proved company officials knew of two separate defects in the accelerator pedals.

The pedals were part of a massive Toyota recall in January 2010, which occurred after the company’s initial attempts to rectify the sticking accelerator problems with replacement floor mats in a November 2009 recall failed to remedy the problems.

The NHTSA’s chief counsel, O. Kevin Vincent, said, “The gravity of Toyota’s apparent violations is severe and potentially life-threatening.”

Vincent also told Toyota that it would have to pay a total of $13.8 billion in individual fines if not for a law that limits individual fines against manufacturers. The January 2010 Toyota recall for gas pedals that could become stuck and cause the vehicle to suddenly accelerate out of control involved around 2.3 million of Toyota’s most popular models. Vincent wrote that under federal law, Toyota Motor Company could be fined $6,000 for each defective vehicle that they sold, which would result in the aforementioned $13.8 billion fines. However, Vincent added that, by law, the most the NHTSA could seek would be $16.375 million in fines.

The NHTSA has stated that the world’s largest automaker “inexplicably” failed to tell its U.S. division to cease installing the defective gas pedals even though it had made engineering changes to the accelerator pedals in other countries. Department Secretary Ray LaHood said recently that Toyota had known of the gas pedal defect since at least September 29, 2009, when it issued a memo concerning customer complaints about sticking gas pedals and sudden acceleration to its distributors in 31 countries in Europe. The law requires automakers to begin product recalls within five business days after learning of a defective part in their vehicles.

“The result of these decisions by Toyota was to expose millions of American drivers, passengers and pedestrians to the dangers of driving with a defective accelerator pedal,” Mr. Vincent wrote.

As an experienced product liability and Florida personal injury lawyer for more than 30 years, Toyota recall accident attorney James O. Cunningham is following developments in the Toyota recall situation very closely. There is growing evidence that Toyota Motor Company knew of the safety and reliability problems in many of their models before taking action to safeguard Toyota owners, passengers and others. If you or someone you care for has been injured due to a Toyota defect, contact Toyota recall accident lawyer James O. Cunningham today to schedule a free consultation and learn about your legal options.

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James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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