Airbags are safety devices installed in cars to offer protection during crashes. Therefore, it was surprising when the NHTSA recalled millions of vehicles with exploding airbags which had resulted in several deaths.
More surprising is the magnitude of the recall. It continues to this day with 19 automakers being held responsible for this incident.
“The Takata airbags have claimed the lives of 19 people while causing more than 400 injuries. Despite this, airbags have generally been very efficient, saving thousands of lives during accidents,” says car accident lawyer Sean Roberts of Roberts Markland LLP.
As other vehicles continue to be recalled, the drivers of 2001-2003 Honda/Acura vehicles and 2006 Ford/Mazda trucks are under a stop-driving order.
Why Are Takata Airbags Being Recalled?
Airbags are loaded with a chemical molecule known as sodium azide mixed with other chemicals to enhance stability. While this molecule is stable, exposure to heat will make it highly reactive.
Therefore during crashes, the heat generated from the ignitor causes the molecule to decompose into nitrogen gas, inflating the airbag, which has propellants. Moreover, the Takata airbag propellant lacked a drying agent. In the long run, this, coupled with heat and humidity, made the inflator’s housing explode, sending pieces of metal flying.
This was the case with a South Carolina resident who was killed by an exploding airbag while driving a 2002 Honda Accord. Honda came to its defense by stating that it had tried to inform the owner of the recall more than 100 times. However, the car was not registered under the victim’s name and had changed ownership quite often.
Three executives responsible for the faulty Takata airbags have been charged in court for making up test data. Moreover, the company received a penalty fine of $1 billion which eventually led to bankruptcy. It was later bought and is now owned by a Chinese-owned parts supplier.
Steps to Take If Your Vehicle Has Been Recalled
If your car has been recalled, reach out to your dealer immediately. The car manufacturer is legally required to repair it at no cost. Should they fail to honor their obligation, you can notify the NHTSA through their email or vehicle safety hotline.
It may be tempting to disable your airbag as you wait for repairs. However, you are discouraged against this course of action since faulty airbags still offer some protection over none. It may be comforting to know that most of the airbags produced by Takata are not hazardous.
You could try asking your dealer for a temporary vehicle if you do not feel safe driving yours. They are not obliged to rent cars in these situations, but it could help to ask them.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If you or someone you know has been a victim of faulty or exploding airbags, you can file for a personal injury claim. You could ask for compensation for hospital bills, emotional and physical pain, suffering, and lost wages.
It is a good idea to hire a qualified personal injury lawyer specializing in product liability cases. Going against big manufacturing on your own could be challenging, and having a lawyer by your side makes the process easier.
All drivers in the US are advised to check the status of their vehicles on the NHTSA website by entering the vehicle’s identification number (VIN). Should your vehicle be listed among those recalled, follow the steps mentioned above.