Not long ago, the Toyota Prius was the star of the Japanese automaker's line-up. With its distinctive appearance and hybrid technology, it was seemingly a perfect fit for consumers concerned with greenhouse gases or reliance on foreign oil.
Even when Toyota was forced to recall millions of its other models, the Prius was an exception. Until Feb. 9, that is, when the company recalled over 400,000 of its hybrids because of braking problems.
Serious software problems
Toyota said it recalled 2010 Prius and Lexus hybrid models to fix software in the anti-lock braking systems. The company said the braking system engages and disengages rapidly - many times per second - as the system's microprocessor senses and then reacts to conditions affecting braking efficiency.
Many Prius drivers were complaining that their brakes weren't working properly at times, often after hitting a bump or hole in the road.
Taking a toll on drivers
Since the recall, a number of high-profile accidents and incidents involving the Prius have happened across the nation. One of the most recent involves a 60-year-old California woman who had both of her feet broken when her 2008 Toyota Sienna van failed at a stop sign and crashed into a truck south of Fresno. The woman, Lynda Bisseger, her husband and their grandson were on their way to church when the crash took place.
Her husband and grandson were able to get out of the burning van, and a passerby carried the injured woman to safety.
Though Bisseger has not indicated whether she will file a personal injury lawsuit against the automaker, many Toyota owners are already joining class action suits against the company. They seek compensation for the loss in value of their vehicles due to the recalls and negative publicity surrounding the company.
What legal remedies exist?
The Associated Press conducted a review with legal experts of the 89 pending class action suits and estimated they could cost the auto giant over $3 billion. That estimate does not include separate wrongful death or personal injury claims.
If you or a family member have been injured in a Toyota or Lexus due to a mechanical or software defect in the accelerator or brakes, contact a New York City personal injury attorney who can assess your case and advise you of your legal options and protections.