Leading automobile manufacturers recall their cars due to defective Takata airbag issues.
“Do not drive it until this urgent, lifesaving recall has been completed.”- said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on February 3, 2023, regarding Honda’s warning related to Takata airbag recalls.
What’s behind this warning?
Honda issued a recent warning in February 2023 to its 8,000 vehicle owners as they have Takata airbags linked to a 50% risk of rupture. Some of the Acura and Honda vehicles from 2001-2003 still have Takata Alpha driver-side airbag inflators, which can pose serious life-threatening injuries to the users when they rupture.
“These vehicles are 20 to 22 years old now, and the risk to vehicle occupants is dire. … If the inflators rupture, the metal fragments ejected toward the driver’s face could kill or leave them with devastating, life-altering injuries,” warns the NHTSA.
In December 2022, the leading automobile manufacturer, Stellantis, released a warning call to the owners of Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, Challenger, and Charger from model years 2005-2010 to stop using the cars and contact them for a free replacement of the airbags.
Do we need to take these warnings seriously? Of course, we have to. Because already our country has lost 24 precious lives to airbag injuries, and more than 400 hundred injuries have been reported.
Around 35 vehicle brands were recalled for a replacement of frontal or side airbags. More than 67 million airbags were recalled by the end of 2022, and more than 10 million airbags are yet to be recalled. The NHTSA considers this the “largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”
The vehicles with the recalled airbags include BMW, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford, Dodge, Honda, etc. To get the full list of cars with their recalled models, click here.
Have you encountered a similar situation and injured fatally? Get an expert airbag recall attorney to analyze the prospects of your claim. Seek experts to do a thorough medical record review to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your claim.
Know the strengths of your case before you proceed
Before probing into airbag recalls and lawsuits, let’s dig out some basic information regarding airbags.
Invention of Airbag-Who, When, and Why
The modern world should be thankful to John W. Hetrick, an American engineering technician, for sowing the seed for a revolutionary invention, the airbag.
In 1952, while on a Sunday drive, Hetrick and his wife threw their hands up to shield their daughter as they spun their car into a ditch to avoid a deer. This incident triggered him to invent the airbag. He got his patent for a compressed air-based airbag in 1953.
German inventor Walter Linderer too, got a patent for a similar invention. However, the compressed air mechanism proved very slow in doing its intended duty.
When quicker detection and faster inflation were identified as the practical choice, a more feasible airbag was developed for use. This became possible with two inventors. A Japanese automobile engineer, Yasuzaburou Kobori, invented the method to release more gas in a shorter time in 1964. Allen K. Breed, an American, got a patent for an electromagnetic sensor, which made faster inflation a possibility.
History had recorded the first intense collision where the airbags of both cars deployed in Virginia in 1990. It saved both drivers with minor injuries.
Though the airbag was invented earlier, the manufacturers were not ready to include airbags in their cars, pointing to the high expenses as the reason.
However, in the 1990s, manufacturers and consumers started understanding the value of airbags as part of the safety procedures. In 1998, with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, the federal government made it mandatory to use front and side airbags in cars. The NHTSA found that the airbags reduced 29 percent risk of death in frontal crashes since then.
From 1987 to 2015, around 50,500 lives were saved with the use of frontal airbags. In 2017 alone, around 2,790 lives were reported to have been saved by airbags in the collision.
How do the Airbags Work?
The airbag mechanism is based on chemical reactions and an array of sensors that activate the process of airbag inflation within milliseconds of detecting a collision.
The airbag has a tiny metal capsule called an airbag inflator with chemicals filled in. During an intense collision, the chemicals in the inflator will mix with each other and spew gas out of a vent, swiftly inflating a foldable airbag to protect passengers from collapsing car components.
The airbag mechanism is designed in such a way that the type, angle, and intensity of the collision govern its deployment. A minor frontal collision does not trigger the airbag.
In the beginning, sodium azide was used as the propellant. It’s ignited by a device triggered by a sensor and created nitrogen gas and sodium metal. Silicon dioxide and potassium nitrate used to interact with the sodium metal formed potassium silicate and sodium silicate, which prevented the sodium from interacting with airborne moisture to form caustic sodium hydroxide.
Airbags are meant to safeguard lives from fatal injuries or death and not to cause fatalities. The success story of a lifeguard changed when Takata, a Japan-based airbag maker, made a greater blunder in 1990 by replacing sodium azide with ammonium nitrate, which is widely used as an explosive and fertilizer.
The ammonium nitrate corroded over time and exploded during deployment. Some of the Takata airbag inflator canisters exploded due to high pressure during the chemical reaction. This explosion shot metal shrapnel onto the faces of the occupants nearby.
In 2004, the first airbag explosion was reported. Since 2008, more Takata airbag-related injuries have started surfacing. The horrifying fact is that even in low-speed collisions, these incidents occurred. Some airbags were reported to have exploded when the car was stationary.
Mr. Jason King, the Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant, once told the media that airbag inflator injuries looked similar to gunfire injuries.
Major types of Takata airbag recall injuries are listed below:
- Brain injuries
- Eye injuries due to contact with chemicals
- Facial injuries
- Fetal injuries
- Hearing loss
- Internal organ damage and bleeding
- Lacerations in the upper body
- Respiratory issues
- Rib fractures
- Rupture of heart muscles
- Spine injuries
Takata Airbag Recalls
The Takata airbags manufactured prior to 2009 were recalled worldwide due to their defective and dangerous design.
Let’s peruse some of the most important recalls.
This massive safety recalls affected around 34 motor vehicle brands from 19 car makers.
Booming Airbag Lawsuits and Legal Actions
Starting in 2008, many Takata airbag lawsuits were being filed all over the world.
These defective airbag lawsuits alleged that Takata knew the defects of its product decades before, as their secret tests on 50 airbags done at Takata’s U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich in 2004 revealed the airbag’s defective nature. Takata was accused of deleting the test findings instead of alerting the auto manufacturers.
The first defective airbag class action lawsuit in the U.S. was filed in October 2014 by the law firms of Labaton Sucharow and Baron & Budd in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. It represented 21 plaintiffs from 10 states.
— Automobile Testing (@auto__testing) November 17, 2014
The suit alleged that Takata built defective and deadly airbags and continued to install them in new vehicles for years, even after they knew about the product’s defect.
The defendants Takata included Takata Corporation, TK Holdings, Inc., and Highland Industries, Inc., which allegedly designed, manufactured, tested, and marketed the defective airbags.
Takata withheld the airbag flaws from the public until 2015 and then issued a nationwide recall. Takata was fined $200 million by the US Department of Transportation for delaying and rejecting the provision of information until 2015 that could have avoided fatalities and injury.
Takata admitted guilt to criminal misconduct in January 2017 and managed to reach a $1 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice. While $850 million was assigned to compensate automakers affected by faulty Takata airbags, and $25 million was used as a fine, the remaining $125 million was assigned to compensate victims.
Takata filed for bankruptcy in June 2017. The company then agreed to be acquired by Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion.
Though many recalls have been announced so far, not all motor vehicle owners got their airbags recalled. Still, more than 14 million vehicles with Takata airbags are in use, making the possibility of fatal injuries a recurring story.
Apart from the product liability individual defective airbag recall lawsuits and class actions, many plaintiffs filed wrongful death lawsuits for the loss of their loved ones, most of which were settled by the car makers for undisclosed amounts.
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Defective Airbag Lawsuit Settlements
Takata and other auto manufacturers reached many settlements for the fatalities from Takata airbag recall accident lawsuits. Have a glance at the below table to learn some of the Takata airbag lawsuit settlements.
In May 2017, a class-action lawsuit on Takata airbag inflator issues reached a final settlement proposal of $553 million with the auto manufacturers Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, and BMW. Approximately sixteen million vehicles were covered under this airbag failure lawsuit settlement.
In November 2017, a Florida judge approved the proposal with an aggregated settlement for $741 million with these manufacturers. It was greater than the earlier proposed amount.
Nissan and Honda reached separate defective airbag settlements in August and September of 2017 for $98 million and $605 million, respectively, to cover 4.4 million Nissan and 11 million Honda vehicles equipped with Takata airbags.
In September 2018, Ford proposed a class action settlement of around $300 million for the Takata airbag defect and got final approval in December of that year.
In 2021, Volkswagen agreed to pay $42 million to cover 1.35 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags.
For cars owned or leased as of June 9, 2017, the deadline to submit a claim in the auto airbag settlement for BMW, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota ended on August 2, 2022.
Can I Pursue a Defective Airbag Injury Lawsuit, If Injured?
Definitely! You can pursue a faulty airbag lawsuit. But remember, for minor airbag injuries, you cannot file a lawsuit, as the airbag has saved you from severe injuries.
If you have suffered life-altering injuries due to the defective airbag, you have to prove that your injury occurred due to the defect of the airbag and not because of the normal deployment.
In three contexts, you can hold the manufacturers liable.
- Manufacturing defect: Though the design was proper, the product deviated from the original design and became harmful during assembly.
- Design defect: The design of the product was unreasonably dangerous to the users.
- Failure to warn of the defect: Failed to warn of the defects of the product during the marketing.
Possible defendants in airbag injury claims include the airbag manufacturer, car makers, and maintenance crew.
If a recalled airbag caused deadly injuries to you or your loved one, you could point out the recall as strong evidence to bolster your claim.
If injured by the airbag that was not recalled, it does not prevent you from filing a lawsuit. Contact a product liability attorney to proceed with an airbag lawsuit claim.
You can make use of three legal theories to prove your defective airbags lawsuit.
- Negligence: the defendant has a duty to sell a safer product but breached that duty, and the defective airbag caused damages or injuries to the victim.
- Strict liability: The product has a design flaw that caused the injuries or death of the victim. From the manufacturers to the distributors, everyone in the chain is liable for the victim’s losses.
- Breach of warranty: There are two types of warranty every product has.
Express warranty– The manufacturer’s assurance of the product’s safety
Implied warranty– It is an implied promise from all those who are in the product’s making and distribution chain that it will not cause any harm if used as per instruction.
When these two warranties are breached, the makers and others responsible can be held liable.
You can pursue an airbag lawsuit for the following airbag flaws:
- Did not deploy in a car accident
- Sudden unexpected deployment without any cause
- Deployment with excessive force
- Deployment of airbags in low-speed accidents
- Failed to inflate fully and adequately to protect the occupants
How to Bolster My Airbag Injury Claim?
To pursue Takata airbag injury claims, your medical records should have valid evidence to prove that your injury is caused by airbag failure. The presence of metal shrapnel in the injury can stand proof for your claim.
Make sure that all the minute details of your injury, like the cause and mechanism of injury, are documented in your medical records.
Contact an experienced airbag injury lawyer to steer your claim to success. He will work with efficient medical record review services to unearth the vital facts from your medical records to bolster your claim.
LezDo TechMed, a leading medical record review company, is known for its prowess in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a case. We can shoulder your Takata airbag recall injury claim by giving error-free medical record reviews to enhance the chances of winning your desirable reparation.
Seeking Reliable Medical Record Review
To sum up,
Every manufacturer has an obligation to make products that are risk-free to use. When they fail to do that, they are responsible for notifying the consumers of the defect as soon as they detect it. Early product recall action may prevent further harm to both the producer and the consumer.
More than producing a defective product, hiding the risk made the Takata airbag makers more accountable. By filing for bankruptcy and being acquired by Key Safety Systems, they were out of trouble, leaving the car manufacturers in a pickle.
Now it’s on the heads of the NHTSA and the car manufacturers to take more stringent actions to get all the defective airbags replaced to prevent further fatalities.
Check if your car is on the recalled airbags list and get free airbag replacements as early as possible.
Be alert and have a safer journey!
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