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Toyota expected to agree to $16 federal fine

Toyota Motor Corp.'s FT-CH compact hybrid concept car

Toyota Motor Corp.'s FT-CH compact hybrid concept car is displayed at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Photo Credit: Bloomberg File

WASHINGTON - A Transportation Department official said Sunday Toyota is expected to agree to a fine of more than $16 million for a four-month delay in telling the government about defective gas pedals on its vehicles.

Toyota faces a deadline Monday to accept or contest a record $16.4-million fine over evidence that it knew about sticking gas pedals in September but did not issue a recall until January.

The Transportation official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Toyota is expected to pay the full amount of the assessed fine and avoid contesting it in court.

Toyota did not immediately comment on the fine.

Insurance companies, meanwhile, are gearing up to recoup from Toyota money they paid for claims in crashes involving sudden acceleration. It could also mean money back for some drivers who paid deductibles.

At least six major insurers, including State Farm Insurance Cos., Allstate Corp. and Geico, have begun examining past claims involving the recalled vehicles, which number about 6 million in the United States and 8 million around the world. Insurers can request that Toyota pay them for the claim if a vehicle defect is proven to be a key factor in a crash, a long-standing industry practice known as subrogation.

Many insurers have begun notifying Toyota Motor Corp. that they will do just that.

"We're seeking to have them share in some of the financial liability, because part of it is their fault," said State Farm spokesman Phil Supple.

The move could repay some Toyota owners their out-of-pocket costs in crashes but probably wouldn't have much of an impact on the premiums drivers pay. And it would mostly involve crashes in which people weren't seriously injured, because those cases frequently find their way into lawsuits.

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