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While the mass General Motor recalls that were made due to a defective switch in their cars has the world burnt out, there is a new safety problem that drivers now face which is more widespread and probably much more dangerous.

Almost 34 million automobiles in the US and over millions more around the world are part of the Takata airbag recalls that happened almost 2 years ago and again this past May 19, 2015. The cars are being recalled due to faulty airbags that could deploy explosively, harming car occupants or worse, killing them.

Takata Airbag Recalls

Information taken by Takata as well as acting under a NHTSA special campaign indicates that automakers involved are making a response to this safety risk by having all their vehicles that use these particular airbags recalled.  Although high-humidity areas are being focused on by automakers, they are encouraged to take a national approach to the risk since many cars are likely to travel across state borders.

Auto Airbag Failure Settlements & Lawsuits

Owners of vehicles such as Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Chrysler, Subaru, General Motors and Ford are urged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to respond to recall notices immediately and have their defective Takata airbags replaced.

This notice is particularly urgent for owners who live in the following areas: Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Texas (in limited locations that are near the Gulf of Mexico), Mississippi, Louisiana, American Samoa, Guam, Virgin Islands, Saipan and Hawaii.

David Friedman, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, states that regardless if the notices are old or new, by responding to recalls quickly, it will help ensure personal safety and help the ongoing investigation of problems related to prolonged exposure to temperatures and high humidity. However, there will remain an aggressive pursuit into tracking down the entire geographic scope of the problem.

Issues Involved

So, exactly what is the issue with the Takata airbags? It’s reported that there are explosive devices located inside the metal airbag inflator. With the airbags that are faulty, these devices burn more vigorously than they are supposed to, which causes the bursting of the inflator and sends metal pieces flying through the fabric of the airbags. This leads to potentially injuring or killing the car’s occupants.

High-humidity environments are a concern for experts since moisture is able to seep into the inflator of the airbag and cause the chemical explosive to destabilize. In faulty airbags, the propellant is unstable and even in a minor accident, can explode which can send metal shards flying into the vehicle.  This could lead to the airbag forcefully inflating too much during minor accidents like a fender bender. Because of this problem, many people have been blinded, injured or even killed.

There were around 140 injuries, according Business Insider, and as many as five deaths that have occurred because of airbag explosions or due to shrapnel tearing through their bodies after the deployment of an airbag.

The odd thing about this Takata case is that it’s been happening now for years as opposed to happening all at once like in the case of the GM’s recalls. There were over 3 million instances last April of Nissans, BMWs and other cars getting recalled worldwide because of this problem and in the five years prior, around 6.5 million vehicles were recalled.

Thanks to an investigation run by the New York Times, this problem has gained more attention lately.  This investigation revealed that Honda and Takata deemed this whole issue ‘an anomaly’, and despite knowing about the issues for years, didn’t start recalling vehicles until the year 2008.

Airbag Recall Lawsuits

After around 247,000 cars in the US were recalled by Toyota Motor Corp due to faulty Takata airbags, news regarding lawsuits starting coming in. At the same time, consumers were urged by the US safety regulators to replace their recalled airbags as soon as possible. Lawsuits were filed against Takata, including the two below.

Corey Burdick Lawsuit

In July, there was an accident report and lawsuit that was filed in a Florida state court, which stated that 26 year old Corey Burdick was driving in Eustis, Florida in his 2001 Honda Civic.  He got into an accident with another car.  He suffered an eye injury, which according to this accident report, was possibly caused by the deployment of the airbag. Corey’s eyes were struck by shards of metal that flew through the fabric of the airbag which led to impaired vision, disfigurement and other serious permanent injuries. Damages exceeding the amount of $15,000 were sought after in the lawsuit.

Stephanie Erdman Lawsuit

In another accident on September 1, 2013, 28 year old, Stephanie Erdman from Texas who was stationed in Florida at a military base was driving in Santa Rose County in her 2002 Civic.  An accident report and lawsuit was filed stating she also suffered from shrapnel or shards of metal that propelled from the airbag and struck her in the right eye and face.  There was a picture of her eye with the metal lodged in it and her bloody face. Her lawsuit was filed in Texas which was where she bought the car, in May and she is seeking over $1 million in damages.

Published in The New York Times is a report that suggested that Takata was aware of the issues of their airbags back in 2004 and they began conducting ‘secret’ tests to try and verify the issue. The outcomes of their test confirmed there were serious problems with the airbag’s inflators which led engineers to researching for a solution quickly. However, rather than moving forward with rectifying the problem and notifying federal safety regulators, Takata instead ordered its engineers to get rid of any data and physical evidence.

After this report was published, a formal statement was released by Takata stating that the allegations made by the New York Times was not accurate at all and impugned the integrity of both the company and employees unfairly. Takata states there was no such testing in 2004 of ‘scrapyard airbag inflators’ and that the tests they did conduct after hours were requested by the NHTSA for addressing an issue with cushion tearing and not ‘secret tests’ for inflator rupturing and no suppressing of test results showing rupturing or cracking in inflators was done whether to NHTSA or to automakers like Honda.

How Takata Stands

Where does this leave Takata?  There is no doubt the company took some huge hits from this and most likely will continue to for a while; however, it is doubted by the experts that this issue will close business for them.  As a result of the recalls, the company did suffer a $235 million loss last month,  as reported by Bloomberg,  and they replaced the president of the company, the company’s founder’s grandson, Shigehisa Takada, with Stefan Stocker, a Swiss national. But, Takada still remains chairman and CEO.

Your Legal Rights

It is the legal duty of automakers to make safe cars and components, and if any safety defects are made known, correct them promptly. Damages against auto manufacturers in personal injury lawsuits for selling faulty vehicles with defective safety flaws include:

  • Future and past mental anguish, physical pain and suffering and physical impairment.
  • Future and past incidental, hospital and medical expenses
  • Future and past loss of income and the ability to earn.
  • Punitive damages for cases like egregious misconduct.

In a case where an occupant or the driver was killed, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by the surviving family members.

Contact us right now for a free airbag case evaluation.

Michael Bennett
About the Author

Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett is Editor-in-Chief of Consumer Protect.com. Since 1999, he's worked across a multitude of areas of consumer protection including defective products, environmental issues, identity theft, predatory lending and more. If you find his articles helpful please share them with your readers.