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Takata Airbag Recall – Are You at Risk?

Airbags were designed as a safety device to protect passengers who are restrained by seatbelts while riding in a car.  The basic design consists of some flexible fabric that can inflate quickly if there is a collision, providing protection to the passengers and preventing them from forcefully hitting other objects in the car.  Most vehicles produced after 1989 are equipped with some kind of airbag, which has saved the lives of approximately 37,000 drivers and passengers.1

With any product, there is always the possibility for defects, and airbags are no exception.  Specifically, airbags made by a Japanese supplier, Takata, have been recalled because some of these airbags have deployed explosively.  The issue is that the airbags deploy improperly when a crash occurs, which can cause metal fragments to be ejected from the airbag. Experts have speculated that this can happen after extended periods in high humidity, which could lead to aggressive combustion when the airbag deploys.  This creates excessive pressure, and metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed into the car.   These shrapnel-like pieces of metal can injure and kill passengers.  In the past 13 years, at least five deaths and 139 injuries, including one that rendered a Florida woman a quadriplegic, have been attributed to faulty Takata airbags.2

A regional recall has been in effect for these airbags since 2002, but a national recall was demanded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in November of 2014.  Because Takata supplies airbags to multiple car manufacturers, over seven million vehicles are affected.  Defective airbags were installed in cars from model years 2002 through 2008, and include cars manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, and Mitsubishi.  For statements about the airbags relating to each manufacturer, please click here.  Further, a comprehensive chart of affected vehicles known to contain defective Takata airbags can be accessed here.

Because of the seriousness of the injuries that defective airbags like this can cause, drivers are able to use their vehicle identification numbers (VIN) to see if there is a recall for their car or motorcycle.  By looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle, drivers can find the VIN and enter that seventeen digit number into the field on the website.  This will tell if there is any recall on your vehicle, including a recall for the faulty Tataka airbags.  This will also explain what further action, if any, needs to be taken.  You can search for your vehicle here.

While the recall is being aggressively pursued nationally and internationally, drivers of affected vehicles in warmer areas such as Florida, Puerto Rico, southeastern Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana are urged to act promptly, as the problem appears to be related to extended exposure to consistently high humidity and temperatures.

Further complicating the issue is the number of vehicles that have faulty airbags.
Because that number is so high (well over seven million), some manufacturers are not notifying drivers that their vehicles need to be recalled because they would be unable to provide replacement airbags.  For example, Honda is sending out recall notifications only when replacement parts become available, prioritizing drivers located in warm, humid areas.3  It is unclear how long it will take for proper airbags to be replaced in all of the affected vehicles.

In response to this situation, NHTSA has called for vehicle manufacturers that use Tataka airbags and Tataka itself to file, under oath, detailed reports about the testing of airbags.  The goal is to determine what Tataka has done to control and mitigate the risk posed by these defective airbags.  The agency is also calling for further testing so that future incidents can be prevented.  More information on the agency’s response to the situation can be found here.

The U.S. Transportation Department has also set up a seven-member panel to investigate Tataka and identify the specific issues that have caused the airbag defects.  The panel, which includes government officials and business executives, will be testing the products that Tataka uses to make the airbags, as well as determining how defects of this kind are reported within the company.4

The bottom line, the automobile airbags manufactured by Tataka can pose a serious threat to drivers and passengers of vehicles that have them installed.  Check your vehicle’s identification number and the list of affected vehicles to determine whether your vehicle contains defective airbags. It is important that the appropriate steps are taken so that you are not putting yourself and your passengers at risk of serious bodily injury.

If you or a loved one have been injured or sustained property damage as a result of an exploding airbag, contact the New Jersey Lawyers for injuries from dangerous products at the Clark Law Firm.