Nine people have died in the United States as a result of exploding Takata-brand airbags. Numerous serious injuries have also been reported. Evidence shows that the problem is caused by an inherent design flaw of the material used to inflate the bags—ammonium nitrate. Although it is unclear what exactly is causing the ammonium nitrate propellant to explode, occupants have been sprayed with shrapnel that tears through air bags, often hitting drivers in the face and neck.
So far, over 34 million cars have been recalled in the United States, and millions more in other parts of the world. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just announced a new round of recalls of around 5 million additional vehicles with defective Takata airbags. Although many effected vehicles have been recalled, very few have actually been fixed. Disturbingly, approximately 26 million vehicles equipped with the defective airbags have not even been recalled despite the known risk.
The NHTSA has stopped short of recalling all vehicles containing the defective airbags. The Agency has not advised people to stop driving affected vehicles. In part, this is because the exact cause of the ruptures has not been identified. Vehicle manufacturers are also reluctant to initiate recalls, due to the high cost of providing loaner vehicles for millions of affected drivers. Of all the dealers affected by the Takata recalls, none has offered a policy of supplying loaner vehicles. The dealers have aligned with the NHTSA and have told drivers that they should continue driving affected vehicles until safe replacement parts become available. This policy may be putting millions of drivers at risk.
Automakers, regulators, and the company who manufactures these airbags have allegedly been aware of this problem for over a decade. Honda, the automaker most affected by the recalls, was allegedly aware of an issue as early as 2004. At that time, Honda alerted Takata to the problem. However, Honda did not alert regulators until 2008, after three more explosions had occurred. Several years ago, automakers compromised with regulators and issued regional recalls limited to humid areas. Many suspect that the reason these airbags are exploding is because ammonium nitrate is sensitive to high temperatures and moisture, which can render the compound unstable.
Recently, Takata has admitted that its engineers manipulated test data. The company is currently facing a criminal investigation into how it has handled the defective airbags.
Tens of millions of drivers are currently driving vehicles equipped with potentially deadly airbags, and many are not even aware that they are at risk. Affected vehicles include certain models of:
For a complete list of affected vehicles, please visit: https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed by a defective Takata airbag, the experienced Monmouth County product liability lawyers at Shebell & Shebell can help you hold the responsible party accountable.
For a free consultation, call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online today.