Rising reports of Toyota vehicles and sudden acceleration prompted State Farm Insurance to alert the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2007. According to The Washington Post, the revelation of the State Farm warnings could add to the criticism that has been dogging the NHTSA since Toyota recalled millions of vehicles around the world for sticking accelerator pedals.
As of January 2010, Toyota has recalled a total 5.3 million vehicles in the U.S. due to incidents of dangerous, unintended acceleration. On January 21, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to accelerator pedals on those vehicles becoming stuck in a depressed position, causing unexpected and unsafe acceleration.
Just a few months prior, in September 2009, Toyota announced it was recalling and replacing floor mats on approximately 4.2 million vehicles which were allegedly causing accelerator pedals in the vehicles to become stuck in the depressed position, leading to uncontrollable and rapid acceleration of the vehicle.
According to The Washington Post report, State Farm tracks claim data and voluntarily share that data with the NHTSA. The Toyota unintended acceleration reports that prompted the 2007 alert to the agency were characterized by State Farm as “numerous” and not “everyday” occurrences.
A Reuters report quoted a State Farm spokesperson as saying the insurer had been in contact with the NHTSA in “late 2007” and, that it had been in touch with the agency an unspecified number of times since then. The Toyota models involved in the State Farm reports were “consistent with the voluntary recall undertaken by Toyota,” the official said.
An NHTSA spokesperson told the Washington Post that it had received a claim letter from State Farm in September 2007 regarding a Camry crash, and that the information was added to the agency’s complaint database. The NHTSA was already investigating the Camry issue, and the investigation ultimately resulted in a small recall. However, the spokesperson would not comment on any other alerts it received from State Farm.
In another development, National Underwriter Online is reporting that State Farm is considering taking legal action against Toyota for auto claims that occurred due to vehicle defects that have been the subject of the sudden acceleration recalls. The action State Farm is considering is known as a subrogation action, and is an option for an insurer if it can show that a defective product was in part or fully to blame for a given auto claim.