Takata Airbag Problem Poses Serious Hazards
Consumers Urged To Check Whether Their Vehicle Has Been Recalled
More than 17 million recalls. An approximate 100 victims. At least six deaths. The numbers don’t add up. Airbag manufacturer Takata, a worldwide leader in supplying airbag safety features to automakers is to blame, according to a flurry of lawsuits filed last year, including a lawsuit I recently filed.
The lawsuits allege the Japanese corporation cut corners in research and development of its omnipresent airbags and used a substandard type of metal that explodes, grenade-like, into shards when the inflatable device is set off. The shards pierce the airbag’s fabric and fly into the faces of drivers and passengers, resulting in severe bodily harm, disfigurement or death.
I represent an unfortunate victim who lost his eye in a Takata airbag incident and can definitively tell you that in a properly functioning airbag system, the inflator remains intact following the airbag’s deployment. However, millions of Takata airbag systems, including the airbag system in my client’s vehicle, were defectively designed and manufactured in such a manner that the metal inflator itself can rupture upon deployment and propel metal shrapnel through the airbag’s cushion and into the faces and necks of the vehicle’s occupants, acting as a weapon instead of a life saving device.
Among the vehicles affected are BMWs, Chevrolets, Chryslers, Fords, General Motors, Hondas, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, Nissans and Toyotas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges consumers impacted by the more than 17 million recalls to take their vehicles to the dealership and get them serviced. All work will be performed free of charge.
“When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determines that a car or item of motor vehicle equipment creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that car or equipment,” according to an NHTSA white paper titled “Vehicle Recalls: What You Should Know.” “That can be done by repairing it, replacing it, offering a refund (for equipment), or (in rare cases) repurchasing the car.”
If you think your car or truck is equipped with a dangerous Takata airbag, use the VIN-lookup tool to find out.
Following the issuance of recalls in 2014, Takata wrote a letter to the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation that said, in part, “Takata wants to assure you that it will work with each manufacturer that agrees to conduct a field action to develop a schedule for that action, based on parts availability. In addition, Takata plans to continue its wide-ranging investigative efforts to better understand the causes of these inflator incidents, and it will keep ODI informed of the progress of those efforts.”
Whether that statement holds water is in doubt, as reports have swirled about Takata having knowledge of the defects and hiding the problem.
“…instead of alerting federal safety regulators to the possible danger, Takata executives discounted the results and ordered the lab technicians to delete the testing data from their computers and dispose of the airbag inflaters in the trash…,” states a New York Times story titled “Takata Saw and Hid Risk in Airbags in 2004, Former Workers Say.”
I suspect that as we conduct further discovery in these cases, we will determine that Takata made a great many bad decisions that placed people in the direct path of danger; not the least of which is manufacturing a literal bomb waiting to go off in the face of drivers.