Toyota and Road Construction Company Pay Paralyzed Seatback Failure Victim

Toyota and a road construction company have agreed to pay the claims made by a 45-year-old man whose 2002 Toyota 4Runner was involved in a rear-end collision.

The man was driving his 4Runner down an Arizona highway when an unexpected lane closure (reducing four traffic lanes to only two) caused a sudden traffic backup. As the 4Runner slowed, merged into one of the remaining open lanes and came to a stop, it was struck from behind by a pickup and pushed into a concrete barrier. The man sustained a catastrophic spinal cord injury in the collision and is now permanently tetraplegic.

The Ammons Law Firm represented the Plaintiffs. In the lawsuit Rob Ammons filed, it was claimed that the crash was caused by the negligence of the company performing road construction a mile and a half ahead of the crash site. Specifically, the portion of the highway in which the crash occurred routinely experienced a high volume of traffic and such was the case at the time of the crash. While the construction company had planned to close one lane of traffic on the day of the accident, it actually closed two. The restricted lanes were just past a bend in the roadway which prevented motorists from having a clear view of the upcoming change in the traffic lanes, and there was no signage posted that displayed accurate information regarding the lane closures. Closing two lanes in a heavy traffic area and failing to provide motorists advance adequate and correct notice of the closure created an unreasonable hazard and caused the inability of the pickup’s driver to stop before colliding with the 4Runner.

It was also claimed that the seat in the 4Runner was uncrashworthy in the rear-end collision. As the 4Runner was struck and pushed forward, the driver’s seat failed rearward, laying back completely. The rear-end damage and the collapsed seat back can be seen in the following photographs of the crashed 4Runner.

The failure of the seat back allowed the man to ramp into the rear seat area of the SUV where his head then impacted the back seat’s headrest, severely injuring his cervical spine and leading to his paralyzing spinal cord injury.

According to Ammons, Toyota knew the 4Runner’s seat was prone to collapsing in rear impacts because seats had done just that in testing Toyota had conducted on its vehicles. Expert inspection of the seat in the 4Runner revealed that the seat frame actually tore and then deformed at both its base and its seat back, causing its complete collapse. Numerous seat designs used by other automakers were stronger and capable of handling the forces produced in rear impacts without breaking, but Toyota negligently chose not to use any of them in the 4Runner.

Past medical expenses incurred by the victim paralyzed in this crash exceeded $600,000 while future costs for the care and services he will require for the remainder of his life were projected by a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor to be more than $4.8 Million.

“I can’t recall representing a catastrophically injured client who was any braver, kinder, or more positive than this gentleman. The settlement monies will allow this truly inspirational man and his wife of over 22 years to move on and live their lives without the weight of worrying every day about whether they can pay for the care he needs,” says Ammons.

The Ammons Law Firm handles cases nationwide, including those involving tire defects, truck accidents, plant explosions, refinery accidents, wrongful death, post-collision fires, seat belt defects, seat back defects, air bag defects, SUV rollovers and workplace negligence.