In 2008, the first 4,000 vehicles that were manufactured with Takata-made airbags were recalled. Six years later, in November 2014, there was a national-level recall of Takata’s airbags after reports revealed that the airbags could explode unexpectedly and without warning, sending sharp metal parts flying through the air. The recall was one of the largest in history. In May 2015, the recall was expanded to include a whopping 33.8 million vehicles, a huge increase from the previous 17 million that had already been recalled.
Now, the recall is set to expand again. A May 2016 article published in The New York Times reads, “Takata Airbag Recall Is Said to Grow by 35 Million.”
The Problem with Takata’s Airbags
The latest recall of an additional 35 million vehicles will more than double what has already been the largest automotive recall in history. In fact, the recall expansion would bring the total number of vehicles recalled for potential airbag defects to nearly 63 million in the United States alone.
Takata is recalling vehicles that contain its airbags because the airbags may unexpectedly explode. When an airbag explosion occurs, metal parts are hurled into the air, causing injuries – sometimes fatal ones – to drivers and passengers. To date, at least 11 people have been killed by injuries caused by Takata airbag explosions. An article on WRAL’s website reports that more than 100,000 injuries have also been reported.
The reason that the airbags are thought to explode is due to the company’s use of a compound known as ammonium nitrate, which, when exposed to moisture, can become unstable. The current recall is targeted at vehicles that were manufactured without a drying agent that the company now uses to control moisture, increasing the compound’s stability and reducing the risk of explosion. Vehicles that are most at risk are those that do not have the drying agent and are more than six years old, as well as vehicles that are kept in areas of high humidity.
But the drying agent may not be the solution, according to Mark Lillie, a former Takata engineer. Lillie told Times’ reporters that the drying agent can reduce the problem and delay its onset, “But it can’t eliminate the problem.”
Takata Admits to Defects, Faces Potential Penalties from NHTSA
While the original Takata airbag problem became known in 2008, it took until May 2015 for Takata to admit that its airbags were defective. In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an order requiring the airbag maker to ensure that all of its products are safe. The company has until the end of 2019 to do so.
If Takata fails to comply with the NHTSA request, it will face serious consequences. The company has already faced a $70 million penalty, which will increase to $130 million if terms are not met. NHTSA has also issued an order that prohibits Takata from using ammoniumnitrate in any new orders of airbags.
The airbag issue has done more than just garner bad press for the company. It has also resulted in a large financial hit, too. Takata issued a statement that said that it expected to spend $189 million to cover recall costs. Takata shares have also plummeted. An article in Bloomberg reports that after the expansion of the recall was announced, shares fell by 9.2 percent.
Does the Takata Recall Affect You?
If you are the owner of a vehicle in the United States, you may have questions about whether your vehicle is one of the ones affected by the recall, and whether you are at risk of becoming a victim of an exploding airbag.
If your vehicle has been named in the recall, you should receive notice in the mail informing you of the recall and steps to take to have your vehicle repaired. If you have not received anything in the mail but are worried, you can look up the full list of recalled vehicles on SaferCar.gov, which – as of today – contains 22 different cars that have been recalled, but does not yet contain new vehicles announced in the May 4, 2016 recall (the list will soon be updated to reflect that information).
If your vehicle is listed, it is important that you seek repairs immediately. Takata is responsible for paying for repairs, so you will not need to pay these costs yourself. The most important thing that you can do is to seek repairs immediately to reduce your risk of a tragic injury.
What to Do If an Airbag Explodes
If you are the victim of an exploding airbag – or another vehicle defect – you may have the right to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective and dangerous product. In your lawsuit, you may seek damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other economic or noneconomic damages you have incurred. Punitive damages may also be available in some cases.
At the law firm of Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our experienced Raleigh product liability attorneys can aid you in filing your claim and guide you through the recovery process. Holding a manufacturer liable for your injuries can be a confusing and intensive process. Let us do the work for you.
If a defective product has injured you in North Carolina, our lawyers are ready to get to work on your behalf. To learn more, please reach out to us today by contacting our offices directly.