Airbags are supposed to serve as a last line of defense for drivers and passengers involved in an automobile wreck. However, in 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) initiated a recall of airbags manufactured by Takata Corp., because the airbags were determined to be unstable during an accident. What’s more, passengers were reporting sometimes bizarre, and graphic, head and chest injuries that could only be attributed to the airbags exploding and the shrapnel they spewed upon being activated.
Indeed, the world would learn that Takata ignored industry airbag manufacturing practice and used ammonium nitrate in its airbag inflators. This compound, which was used to blow up the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995, can destabilize over time, particularly if exposed to high temperatures and humidity. The result of this faulty concoction has proved to be devastating, as the airbag design can explode with far greater force than a traditional airbag, causing deadly shrapnel to blast toward drivers and passengers.
Takata manufactured millions of these faulty airbags and they did so for cars that are commonly used, including vehicles manufactured by Toyota, Honda, General Motors, BMW, Daimler Vans, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Jaguar-Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Tesla. So far, 13 deaths in the United States and hundreds of injuries have been linked to the defect.
By November 2017, roughly 34 million vehicles had been recalled as a result of Takata airbag danger. Just recently, another 3.3 million vehicles were recalled, including roughly 465,000 Honda and Acura vehicles, as well as 600,000 Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
Honda and Acura vehicles alone constitute an astounding near 12 million vehicles recalled and the vast majority of deaths attributed to the defect.
With additional recalls expected next year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the total number of affected airbags will be around 70 million. Completion rates for all of the eight-recall priority group were no more than 65 percent complete as of the end of January, leaving millions of people at risk of deadly injuries associated with these airbags.
Takata has pled guilting to wire fraud, agreed to pay $1 billion in fines and restitution, and acknowledged that it ran a scheme to use false reports and other misrepresentations to convince automakers to buy air bag systems that contained faulty, inferior or otherwise defective inflators.
In May 2017, Toyota, Subaru, Mazda and BMW became the first four automakers to exit the Takata airbag multidistrict litigation after agreeing to pay a combined $553.6 million settlement. Settlements with Honda for $605 million and with Nissan for $97.7 million were preliminarily approved Sept. 19, 2017. Parties agreed to the settlements “in order to increase recall completion rates and to avoid the cost and risk of further litigation, with the goal of enhanced customer satisfaction,” according to the official informational site for the Takata class action.
Critically, these settlements do not “involve claims for personal injury or property damage to any property other than the Subject Vehicles.” As such, passengers must file suit against Takata and others for personal injuries associated with the Takata airbag defects. With these deadly airbags set to remain in millions of vehicles for the foreseeable future, we can only anticipate that deaths and severe injuries associated with Takata’s defect will increase over the coming years.
Our law firm has been at the forefront of the Takata airbag litigation since its inception, and we have successfully litigated catastrophic products liability cases across the country for many years. If you or a loved one was injured by what you believe to be a defect from a Takata airbag, we can help you.
To see if your vehicle was affected by the Takata recall, visit www.autoairbagsettlement.com/en and check using your vehicle identification number (VIN).
Takata Settlement Website