With the recent Toyota recall, and the numerous crashes that have resulted in fatalities and serious injuries, the need for trial lawyers has never been more important. Trial lawyers encourage manufacturers to put safety first, and more importantly, play an important part in protecting consumer safety.
Year after year, for nearly a decade, Toyota has not addressed the problem of repeated complaints from consumers of unintended acceleration. Unfortunately, federal regulators have also not acted during this timeframe to protect public safety. In one review of federal agency reports, the Los Angeles Times reported 2,600 complaints of sudden unintended acceleration from 2000 to 2010 by Toyota and Lexus owners. Additionally, according to CBS, internal documents recently released by Toyota reveal that as far back as 2005 Toyota was linking the unintended acceleration problem to computer software in each car, and not stuck floor mats.
Federal regulatory agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are vital in reining in corporate power, and ensuring public safety. Unfortunately, years of budget cuts and chronic understaffing has lead to these agencies being so overwhelmed and understaffed that they can barely do their jobs. The current economic recession only further threatens the ability of federal regulatory agencies to oversee product safety. As a result, consumers are increasingly left with the courts not only as a means of seeking compensation when injured, but also to compel manufacturers to improve product safety.
Lawsuits involving product liability have also played a critical role in increasing public safety. A 1988 survey of 264 CEOs of manufacturing companies found that 33% had improved their products as a result of the threat of litigation, 35% had improved product safety, and 47% had improved warnings to consumers. Lawsuits also have provided important assistance to regulatory agencies, by providing increased access to critical safety information about particular products. This access has resulted in better regulations, improved products, and the removal of dangerous products from the marketplace. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court, just last year, stated that state tort suits "can serve as a catalyst" for regulatory action.
Skilled trial attorneys and federal oversight are both critical in ensuring public safety when it comes to product safety. The alleged need for tort reform in the United States ignores the fact that trial attorneys play an important role in ensuring public safety when government oversight is unable to do so.