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Toyota is coming under fire because more and more agencies are coming out of the woodwork claiming that the car manufacturer knew about unintended acceleration problems in their vehicles years before the recent recalls. The Detroit News reports that State Farm Insurance told federal regulators that there was a rise in claims due to unintended acceleration.
The insurance company also reported that the incidents involved Toyota vehicles. The insurance company notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a letter that was dated Sept. 7, 2007 in regards to a crash involving a Toyota Camry. The NHTSA responded to these claims by State Farm Insurance by saying that it led its own independent investigation of that crash; which led to the first recall on Toyota vehicles because of its floor mats.
According to Reuters, there has been documentation that indicates that Toyota has been aware of unintended acceleration issues in its vehicles for years. For example, back in 2004, the company worked with the NHTSA to get rid of incidents of unintended acceleration that occurred for a few seconds, or when the driver would hit the brakes on the vehicle. In 2007, the NHTSA opened a formal investigation into the Camry crash that ultimately lead to the first recall of Toyota's vehicles.
2007 is also the year that former Toyota attorney Dimitrios Biller claims that he found "numerous" instances where the car maker hid evidence from the courts and the U.S. government about safety issues. We wrote about Toyota's possible concealment of safety issues in FindLaw's Injured Blog. As a result of this timeline, safety issues, and consumer concerns, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet this week for a hearing on Toyota safety. They have also pushed the Senate to hold hearings about the issue as well.
George LeMieux, R-Fla, is quoted by the Detroit News as saying, "The American public needs to know the level of risk associated with operating affected vehicles, and Congress needs to know whether federal regulators have fulfilled their proper roles. This is a matter of public safety. There's a lot of missing information right now about who knew what and when and we ought to expose that information to the public."
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