Millions of drivers around the world rely on airbags to keep them safe in case of an accident. But in recent years, some airbags made by the Takata Corporation have been found to explode unexpectedly showering drivers and passengers alike with deadly shrapnel.
Regardless of the accident that causes the defective Takata airbag to deploy, the manufacturer is usually liable for the injuries associated with the exploding airbag, including cuts, burns, and bruises.
Many in the automotive industry say Takata has long shown a disturbing pattern of deceit over the airbag problems, essentially hiding the problem for almost 10 years. It also was found to have manipulated test data before and after many airbag recalls, and used inaccurate information to decide how large the recall should be.
What is Airbag Shrapnel?
The Takata airbag inflator is a metal canister that has ammonium nitrate as a propellant. As the airbag ages in heat and humidity, this explosive chemical can break down. When an accident occurs and the airbag deploys, the airbag can explode with too much force, causing the canister to rupture. The canister shatters into deadly metal shrapnel that showers the driver and passengers in the car. The shrapnel can cause cuts, bruises and even kill. There have been at least 23 deaths to date around the world from Takata airbag shrapnel.
Airbag Shrapnel Injury – Deaths and Fatalities
There have been at least 23 deaths, with 15 in the US, and 290 injuries caused by airbag shrapnel from the Takata product. Still, millions of vehicles with defective airbags are still being driven.
More than 65 million vehicles that have Takata airbags require replacement and repair as part of the biggest automotive safety recall in US history. Around the world, more than 125 million vehicles will have been recalled by the end of 2019 for exploding Takata airbags.
The NHTSA or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken serious actions against Takata, including imposing a huge $200 million civil penalty for violating US laws intended to protect drivers and passengers.
In early 2017, Takata pled guilty to criminal charges and came to a $1 billion settlement with DOJ or the Department of Justice. Approximately $850 million of that amount was for automakers affected by the exploding Takata airbags, $25 million was a fine, and $125 million was for victim compensation.
In June 2017, Takata went bankrupt. It agreed to be bought for $1.6 billion by Key Safety Systems in China.
But victims and even some states are still filing personal injury lawsuits for exploding airbag injuries and deaths. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by airbag shrapnel from a defective Takata airbag, please contact the law office of Melinda J. Helbock A.P.C. for a free legal consultation.
Airbag Shrapnel Recall
Vehicles made by 19 automakers have been recalled to replace defective Takata frontal airbags. Most of the airbags were made by Takata Corporation and can spray drivers and passengers with deadly shrapnel in an accident. To date, at least 42 million vehicles have been recalled with defective Takata airbags, but millions have yet to be repaired.
If you want to check if your car has been recalled for a defective airbag, please visit www.safercar.gov and enter your VIN number.
Injuries Associated with Airbag Shrapnel
Drivers and passengers have suffered serious injuries from Takata airbag shrapnel. This shrapnel can penetrate the body and faces of drivers and passengers and can be deadly. Some of the common injuries reported across the country from airbag shrapnel are:
- Large wounds
- Eye injuries and blindness
- Torn veins and arteries
- Skull fractures
- Brain bleeding
- Stab injuries similar to knife and gunshot wounds
Victims of airbag shrapnel may need emergency surgery, medical care for months or years and possibly reconstructive surgery in some cases to deal with facial trauma.
Airbag Shrapnel Fatalities
One particularly gruesome Takata airbag injury occurred in California in September 2013. The police on the scene first thought the driver had been shot in the face. The driver’s 2002 Acura TL struck a building in a parking lot, and the airbag deployed, spraying his face with shrapnel, leading to his death. (CNN.com)
Also, a 17-year-old girl in Texas was killed by airbag shrapnel in April 2016. Her 2002 Honda Civic was hit from behind by another car. The airbags went off and exploded shrapnel into her neck and killed her. The media reported it was a relatively minor crash and the girl would have lived if not for the airbag malfunction. (CNBC.com)
Another fatality occurred in Florida when airbag shrapnel tore into a driver’s head. This caused a massive 6 by 3-inch wound in the woman’s temple, causing a skull fracture and brain bleed. The woman died shortly after the reck. (AP.com)
Airbag Shrapnel Injuries
Another case involved a woman driving a 2001 Honda Odyssey. The airbag allegedly deployed without cause and tore her carotid artery. She survived by applying intense pressure to the wound but has suffered long term complications from the airbag shrapnel injury.
An additional case in Florida in 2014 involved a woman whose injuries appeared to be stab wounds, according to the police. The woman turned left on a green light when another car hit her in the intersection. The airbag went off and the airbag shot shrapnel into her face, neck and upper chest.
Types of Cars with Airbag Shrapnel
Most major automakers have vehicles affected by the Takata airbag shrapnel recall:
- Land Rover
Airbag Shrapnel Lawsuits & Settlements
If you or a loved one has been injured by airbag shrapnel, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against Takata Corporation. While the company went bankrupt in 2018, a trust fund has been established called the Takata Airbag Individual Restitution Fund. Many auto manufacturers have contributed to the fund, including Honda, GM, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. (Consumerreports.org)
If you decide to file a defective airbag lawsuit, you can apply for an auto airbag settlement compensation from the restitution fund. If you are not satisfied with the offer your attorney negotiates for you, you still to proceed with a lawsuit.
The trust fund evaluates airbag injury claims of many types. Typical payouts are:
- $2 million to $5 million for a death
- $3 million to $5 million for loss of vision
- $1 million to $3 million for severe brain trauma
- As much as $2.5 million for paralysis
Cash payments are calculated by a complex points system that accounts for your age, income, suffering and number of dependents.
How to File an Airbag Shrapnel Lawsuit
If you or a loved one have been injured by an exploding Takata airbag, the first thing to do is to be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible after the accident. It is important to have your airbag shrapnel injuries evaluated and recorded by a physician.
This vital medical report will be key to filing a successful personal injury lawsuit. You should then speak to a qualified Takata airbag injury attorney to determine if you have a strong legal case. Even if the accident was your fault, this does not change the fact that Takata is liable for your airbag injuries. You could be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Your airbag personal injury attorney will not charge you upfront legal fees. Most personal injury attorneys are compensated with a contingency fee of 33% after the case is over if they win a settlement or verdict.
Why the Takata Airbag Recall?
The issue is not with the actual airbag but with how they are inflated. The Takata airbag has four major pieces: collision sensors, ignitor, inflator and airbag cushion. During a crash, sensors relay a signal that triggers the ignitor, which starts the inflator. In turn, the airbag cushion deploys and inflates. This all happens in a fraction of a second.
The Takata inflator uses ammonium nitrate as the propellant to inflate its airbag. The airbag sometimes explodes in an accident, shooting metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment, leading to serious injuries and even death.
Humidity, moisture and other environmental aspects can cause the ammonium nitrate to break down over time and it becomes unstable. If that happens, the propellant may burn too fast and create too much pressure in the inflator cartridge. This can cause an explosion that sends shrapnel into the bodies and faces of the driver and passengers.
You Know Your Legal Rights?
If you have been seriously injured, or you know someone who has by a failed airbag, it is vital that you seek legal assistance immediately. You may be able to hold Takata responsible for the issue, which means you could receive compensation for things such as pain and suffering, medical bills and other types of losses.
About Takata Corporation
The Takata Corporation was a supplier of various automotive safety systems and was based in Tokyo. In addition to producing airbags, Takata also made seatbelts (see seatbelt lawsuits & failures), child restraint products for cars, systems for steering, electronics and various interior car parts. The company was established in 1933 and started making airbags in 1988. The company has 20% of the airbag market around the world, and sells airbags to most of the largest automakers.
It is important to note that Takata is the only supplier of airbags that uses explosive ammonium nitrate to inflate its airbags. Using this dangerous chemical is blamed for the rash of airbag shrapnel injuries that prompted a huge recall of millions of Takata airbags. The recall started in 2013, with 3.7 million cars from six auto manufacturers. It has since expanded to at least 40 million cars, which is one of the biggest recalls ever.
The massive airbag recall is not the first time Takata had problems with safety with its products. In the early 1990s, the NHTSA issued what was at the time the largest recall in its history when it recalled 8.5 million vehicles with seatbelts made by Takata that did not latch and release properly.