James Sikes, in case you missed the story, is a poor fellow whose name recently hit the national news when his 2008 Toyota Prius’ accelerator pedal stuck to the floor, sending him rocketing down Interstate 8 at speeds up to 95 miles per hour.
Just the other day, Toyota held a nationally televised news conference to announce that its “investigation” of the Sikes incident has resulted in findings “inconsistent” with Mr. Sikes’ account. Although Toyota does not claim to know what happened, it does claim to know what did NOT happen, and apparently, that means the accelerator pedal did NOT stick.
If you think Mr. Sikes is making it up, google and listen to his 911 call, which documents his frantic attempt to stop the car with law enforcement help.
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Toyota, like any red-blooded corporate giant, would eventually have to dig into its bag of defense tricks and pull out an old standard — the “blame the victim” defense. How does it work? It works the same way in a Syracuse or Central New York injury lawsuit as it does anywhere else. If you are guilty of a screw up that ends up seriously injuring someone, you blame the victim. You do it in Court, you do it in the press, you do it everywhere. It’s simple, really. A monkey could be trained to do it. The more hurt your victims are, the more you blame them. The guiltier you are, the more you blame them.
And Toyota is starting to look pretty darn guilty. Evidence has been piling up for weeks that Toyota had known about its unintentional acceleration problem for years, yet hid it from the safety overseeing authorities and the public. It is no coincidence, then, that Toyota has chosen this moment to pull out its “blame the victim” defense. For a while there, Toyota was sounding, well . . . contrite (“gee, sorry folks, we’ll recall and fix the problem”). But no longer. Now it’s, “you’re making it all up”. This is actually a subcategory of the “blame the victim” defense called the “liar-liar-pants-on-fire” defense.
This trick is certainly not new to us Syracuse / Central New York accident lawyers! We hardly try a case without it being hurled (like a runaway Toyota) at our clients. It goes like this: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, plaintiff’s excruciating neck pain does not exist …. All fake. Never mind that plaintiff endured 6 huge needle injections, with significant health risks, into his spinal cord designed to alleviate pain. — he did it all to get a big verdict”.
Just a few weeks ago I blogged about a Yates County New York auto accident case I recently handled where a car had illegally cut my motorcyclist off, giving him one second to decide where to drop his bike down to avoid a collision and probable death. The defense? “You dropped it down the wrong way, and on the wrong side, you could have done this different, you could have done that different”. Blame the victim!
Why do they do it? Unfortunately, it works–sometimes. There is something deep inside our human psyche that wants to blame the victim. That way we don’t have to feel bad about what happened to them. And we don’t have to help them. And a jury doesn’t have to expend time and energy figuring out how to compensate them. And that’s why you need a good personal injury lawyer to combat this defense and make a jury do its job of fairly compensating the victim.