Visitor Question

Automobile Manufacturing Defect Causes Steering Wheel to Lock…

Submitted By: Geraldine (Phoenix, AZ, US)

Good Morning. On March 3rd, 2013 I had an accident on I-20 westbound driving from Pennsylvania to Arizona. This was not my first time driving across the country.

While simply attempting to keep my 2009 Corolla steered straight in my lane (to avoid collision with a car that came from behind me, just as I was about to merge to the left), the steering wheel seemingly locked.

Witnesses say the car then spun around several times before spinning two lanes over and crashing into the median. Fortunately, there were no other vehicles involved and I was not hurt at all. Unfortunately, my car was totaled.

The reason why I’m writing is to ask if it is appropriate and legal for my insurance company to refuse further (thorough) inspection of the vehicle to determine actual liability. My insurance company has classified the situation as an “at fault” accident not taking any of Toyota’s manufacturing defects into consideration.

They respected my request to postpone salvaging and preserved the vehicle in Alabama. I am in Arizona and cannot afford any kind of follow up, which my insurance company is requiring. They gave me ninety days from March 22 to respond.

What should or can I do about this? Is there a way to force an investigation into a manufacturing defect? Thanks.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Geraldine,

You cannot force your insurance company to inspect your car. The ninety day time period you allude to is probably the amount of time your insurance company gave you to determine if you want to keep your car or turn it over to your insurance company for salvage value.

If you decide to keep the car, albeit totaled, it is likely your insurance company will offer a lower damage settlement. In the alternative, if you turn it over to them the settlement offer will likely be higher.

You can contact an attorney, but because you didn’t suffer any injuries it may be difficult to find one who will represent you.

The only case you appear to have would be one against the Toyota Corporation for a manufacturing defect. The best case scenario is they will send one of their inspectors to inspect the car. If the inspector determines there was a defect which caused the steering wheel to lock up, they may offer a cash settlement or offer to replace your car.

Learn more here: Defective Car Parts and Accessories

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,


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