Probably the fastest-breaking news regarding consumer matters in the past few weeks was Toyota’s recall of eight different car models because of a defective gas pedal with a tendency to stick in the down position.
As of February 1, 2010, Toyota reports that models affected are:
- 2009-2010 RAV4 (other than VIN beginning with “J”)
- 2009-2010 Corolla (other than VIN beginning with “J”)
- 2009-2010 Matrix
- 2005-2010 Avalon
- 2007-2010 Camry (other than VIN beginning with “J”)
- 2010 Highlander (other than VIN beginning with “J”)
- 2007-2010 Tundra
- 2008-2010 Sequoia
Several other companies use the same pedal, and Ford has issued a recall in China for a model not sold in the U.S.
So, if you’ve got a car with a bad gas pedal, what do you do?
First and foremost, get your car fixed as soon as you can schedule it. This could be a dangerous situation and you don’t want to be hurt. In addition, the longer you wait to repair an affected car, the more difficult it may be to recover from Toyota after an accident.
Unfortunately, Toyota expects that it will be several months before all of the cars can be repaired. If you try to schedule repairs as soon as possible, you may be able to get your car fixed sooner, and if you are told to wait, Toyota is less likely to raise the question of delay after an accident.
In the meantime, Consumers Union reports that accidents are rare enough that you can probably safely drive if you pay attention to how the gas pedal feels. If the car starts to accelerate suddenly while you are driving, they recommend you hold the brake down without pumping, shift into neutral, pull to the side, turn off the ignition before shifting to park, and call for a tow.
Toyota is notifying car owners by mail if the recall affects them. If you get a recall notice from Toyota, call a dealer for repairs. If it’s not a Toyota, ask your dealer if the company used the same gas pedal and if they can repair it.
The law requires the car companies and dealerships to provide reasonably good cars, which includes reasonable safety. If the problem is discovered before an accident, you probably are entitled to repair, depending on whether or not your purchase agreement includes a prominent disclaimer of the “warranty of merchantability” or “as is” language. You may also be entitled to costs incurred while waiting for repair, such as a rental.
At this point, I would expect that any car with a similar gas pedal would be called defective and that repairs would be available. You may, however, have to argue, or call the company, if it’s not a Toyota.
Toyota and Lexus also have a recall involving floor mats that may get entangled with the gas pedal. If you get a recall notice about this, Toyota recommends you take the floor mat out for now and get the problem fixed.
The cars listed in the floor mat recall are:
- 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon
- 2007-2010 Toyota Camry
- 2009-2010 Toyota Corolla
- 2008-2010 Toyota Highlander
- 2009-2010 Toyota Matrix
- 2004-2009 Toyota Prius
- 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma
- 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra
- 2009-2010 Toyota Venza
- 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe
- 2007-2010 Lexus ES 350
- 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350
If you have the misfortune to be in an accident, you have my sympathies. You may have a claim against Toyota, which you can pursue by yourself, with your own lawyer, or as part of a class action. I think that smaller claims that can be tied to the recalls may settle, depending on the proof of damages, but larger claims may be more difficult. At least one class action has been filed about this defect. I expect that an Oregon or Washington class action may begin at some point in the future.
I don’t do class actions, but other lawyers do. That said, you don’t have to join a class action if you don’t want to. Watch the mail and the newspapers for announcements of class actions. If you think you have a case and would prefer to handle it separately from a class action, you may need to send an “opt-out” letter within before a deadline in the announcement. In addition, if a class action is eventually settled and you don’t like the settlement, you can object to the court. More often than not, if you think you can prove your case, the terms of the settlement may allow you to do that instead of taking the settlement.