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Did the San Diego Driver of the Runaway Prius Make up the Accident?

By Ross Jurewitz on March 13, 2010

Earlier we reported about the San Diego Man‚ James Sikes‚ who was saved by California Highway Patrol officers after his Toyota Prius allegedly experienced uncontrollable acceleration‚ speeding up to 90 mph on Interstate 8 (I-8)‚ before being stopped by the officers.

Now‚ bloggers and other journalists are starting to doubt the story.

When reported accidents like this occur‚ we generally take them at face value—unless they are completely and clearly fabricated.  We’ll continue to do so‚ but even our office has its’ concerns.  First‚ the slow pace of the acceleration and the slow top speed (90 mph is fast‚ but is not uncommon for some drivers along San Diego’s freeways) do not at first indicate that the vehicle was accelerating out of control.

Second‚ the manner in which Mr. Sikes was able to stop his car—by applying his emergency brake and foot brake and ultimately pushing the power button several times—does not at first blush seem like a method to stop a vehicle with a stuck accelerator.  Also‚ Mr. Sikes reportedly tried to put the vehicle in neutral and even reverse in his efforts‚ all to no avail.  Now‚ admittedly‚ I am not an expert in sudden acceleration‚ vehicle design‚ and have not consulted an expert before writing this article.  And the factual events may have proceeded just as Mr. Sikes describes.  If they did‚ one would think that the “black box” in the Prius would have recorded the events.  However‚ I am initially skeptical.

Third‚ whenever a major news story like the Toyota sudden acceleration problems are reported there are always copycats looking either for financial gain or 15 minutes of fame.  Thankfully‚ these people are a small‚ small minority and most claimants are very honest.  But these handful of claimants in the most publicized cases can have a disastrous effect on the thousands‚ or even millions in Toyota’s case‚ who have an honest and valid claim.  They end up poisoning the well for jurors and give the defense a tool to use at trial that it is the defense counsel who is seeking truth—not the attorney for the injured person—and is trying to protect the public from frivolous lawsuits.

In Mr. Sikes’s defense‚ the media attack he is now experiencing is not unusual.  Major companies have long used the media and alternative media to criticize those who seek to tell the truth about their behavior or seek deserved compensation for injuries or even death.  Certainly some of the media reports we have seen have been focused on digging up selatious dirt on Mr. Sikes’s personal life and are not concerned about whether his claims are true.

We hope‚ not only for Mr. Sikes’s sake but for the sake of all those people who have suffered injury and even death due to Toyota’s dangerous vehicle design and manufacturing‚ that Mr. Sikes is telling the truth and is honest about what occurred.  As we said earlier‚ all it takes is one bad‚ well publicized story to emerge for jurors to doubt everyone’s claims.

Ross Jurewitz

Ross Jurewitz is the founder and managing lawyer of the Jurewitz Law Group, a San Diego personal injury attorney law firm. These San Diego injury accident lawyers specialize in helping people seriously injured in a variety of accidents throughout San Diego County and California.

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