February 18th, 2010 by Penny Hagerman
As we alluded to in our previous post (and you may have already heard in the media), mechanical issues involving Toyota vehicles came as no surprise to the nation’s largest auto insurer.
In fact, State Farm reported a disturbing trend involving some Toyota models way back in 2007.
Late that year, the company contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to report a worrying accident trend it was seeing amongst drivers of some Toyota vehicles.
State Farm processes a huge volume of consumer claims each year. The company felt the pattern of accidents it was seeing was not normal and indicated a problem, though few other insurers saw the same.
Few others, however, write enough auto policies to make such a trend noticeable. State Farm, on the other hand, holds more than 42 million auto policies nationwide.
As reported in the Insurance Journal, spokesman Kip Diggs said of the company’s actions, “When you start to see significant claims activity that indicates that there may be widespread problems with a product, that’s when you go to the NHTSA. There had to have been significant activity, a noticeable trend, for that to happen.”
Now, two Congressional leaders are requesting information from State Farm and four other top auto insurers, including Geico, Allstate, Farmers and Progressive. Lawmakers are looking for any information regarding consumer complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyotas and any warnings these companies may have provided the NHTSA concerning defect trends in those vehicles.
Consumers who own recalled Toyotas and were involved in accidents during the past few years may have seen their insurance rates rise unfairly due to mechanical defects like stuck accelerators and floor mats that caused braking issues.
With further research, if some of those mishaps are proven to have been caused by vehicle fault, rather than driver error, some Toyota owners may see their insurance premiums return to the rates they were paying pre-accident.
This isn’t the first time State Farm has come to consumers’ aid regarding safety. The company also collected data and tracked problems that linked rollover accidents in Ford Explorers with Firestone tires 10 years ago.
With the previous trends the insurer noted concerning Toyota, it seems State Farm is at work on drivers’ behalf once again.