By Jordan W. Charness
There has been a lot written about the recent Toyota recalls. Of course, to be fair, it is not only Toyota that has been forced to recall vehicles in the past little while, since many of the other major automobile manufacturers found themselves recalling cars because of safety defects. In all cases when a manufacturer recalls the vehicle it is required to repair the vehicle for free and do so as quickly and as safely as possible. But there is much more to the story than that.
Peter had his own Toyota story. Although his car was a few years old, he had never had any of the problems related to uncontrolled acceleration. His car had always been what he wanted it to be: safe, economical and reliable; he was surprised to find that he was even on the recall list.
That all changed recently: he had had a long day and was happy to be home. At about nine o’clock at night he turned into his driveway and came to a complete stop while reaching for his garage door remote control. It was where it always was in a little compartment by his left hand. He did not have to search for it or do anything out of the usual in order to find it.
The next thing he knew he had driven through his garage door and slammed into the wall at the end of his garage. A stunned Peter turned off the engine trying to figure out how exactly he had gotten there. He was absolutely positive that his foot was on the brake at all times and that he never pushed down on the accelerator pedal.
He called his insurer and they immediately sent someone to temporarily repair his garage door so that he would have no unwanted visitors that night. He was told that they would send a tow truck in the morning to tow his car out and have the accident damage repaired. He was very pleased with his insurance company until he started to look a little deeper.
Since this was actually Peter’s second accident in a little over two months he was afraid that his insurance premiums would rise. He called the insurance company and they confirmed that indeed his insurance rates were on the way up particularly since this was his second “at fault” accident.
Peter was of the opinion that although the first accident was indeed his fault, the garage door incident could not be blamed on him. He quite reasonably pointed out that since his Toyota had suffered from unexplained acceleration and had already been on the recall list for just that problem and had not yet been repaired, the fault should lay with Toyota and not with him.
The insurance company countered that since there was no other vehicle involved in the accident than it had to be his fault. Perhaps his foot had slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator. Besides, someone at the insurance company told him, this wasn’t the way the Toyota problem usually played out.
The insurance company paid the full amount of the repairs according to the terms of his insurance company but refused to take away the “at fault” designation.
Peter is now faced with the lengthy procedure of trying to make a claim against Toyota which will not likely succeed since he had already been fully compensated by the insurance company or challenging the insurance company’s designation of a liability for the accident by using the arbitration procedures mentioned in his policy.
What makes things even more complicated for Peter is that no one came to investigate the cause of his garage door accident until after both the garage door and the car had been fixed. At that point it was too late since all the physical evidence had been fixed.
Sometimes, the effects of a recall can be more far-reaching than you think.