Does My Car Have Defective Takata Airbags?
NC Product Liability Attorneys Explain Takata Airbag Recall Lawsuits
Defective airbags created by the Takata Corporation are responsible for the largest automotive recall in US history. In fact, the Takata airbag recall affects more than 42 million vehicles produced by 19 different automakers in the United States alone. This number may jump to 62 million by 2019, according to some projections. Takata airbags are dangerous because they contain inflators that deploy with excessive force. As a result, the metal canisters that house these inflators can rupture and send shrapnel flying into vehicle occupants. This can happen even during very minor collisions or with no impact at all. If a defective Takata airbag harmed you or a loved one, then you may be eligible to file a product liability lawsuit. Additionally, if your car contains a defective airbag, then you may be entitled to recover repair costs and possibly other damages by joining the ongoing multidistrict litigation.
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Despite the enormity of this recall, filing a successful lawsuit against Takata and/or your automaker can still be difficult. Therefore, our law firm works with industry experts to prove the merits of product liability cases like this. At the law offices of Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our team of experienced auto defect attorneys has decades of experience helping injury victims throughout North Carolina. Our attorneys have offices in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Kinston as well as Jacksonville. If your vehicle has Takata airbags, then we can advise you of your legal options, whether you sustained injuries from a crash or not.
Why Do Takata Airbags Explode?
Takata airbag inflators use ammonium nitrate as a propellant, which inflates the device quickly in the event of a crash. However, ammonium nitrate can become unstable when exposed to high humidity and temperature fluctuations. This instability can cause the airbags to inflate without warning and at much higher speeds than normal. Additionally, product defects in the casing can cause the cover to fracture during inflation. The explosive force of the airbag can send these shards flying at occupants as shrapnel. This can cause severe lacerations to the face, neck and chest that may be fatal.
In the past, Takata has taken steps to try to correct these deadly airbag defects. After several reports of explosions, the company added calcium sulfate, a drying agent, to the propellant. This chemical was expected to help stabilize the ammonium nitrate and prevent explosions. However, airbag inflators continued to explode even after this addition. In 2008, Takata doubled its efforts and added zeolite, a stronger drying agent. However, this did not eliminate the risk of explosions.
Additionally, environmental conditions can also affect defective Takata airbags, increasing the risk of explosions. The longer one of these airbags is exposed to humidity and wear, the more likely it may be to rupture. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has warned that 2001-2003 Honda Civic and Acura vehicles have the greatest risk of rupturing, especially if owners live in hot, southern states. If you own one of these vehicles, then have it towed to the dealership for repairs as soon as possible.
Although replacement efforts are underway, starting with high-risk vehicles, as of June 2016, only 8.4 million airbags had been replaced. This still leaves tens of millions of vehicles on the road with deadly airbags.
Did Takata Hide Airbag Defects from the Public?
Before switching to the problematic ammonium nitrate, Takata used tetrazole as a propellant in its airbags. The company made the switch in 2001 because ammonium nitrate is cheaper than alternative propellants. Several years later, Takata began receiving reports of airbag inflator explosions. In 2004, the driver of a Honda Accord sustained serious injuries from an airbag explosion during a car crash. Still, Takata called the incident an anomaly. Five years later, another incident involving a Honda Accord led to a driver fatality due to lacerations from shrapnel.
According to regulatory filings and court records, Honda received reports of at least three more ruptures in 2007. However, the companies settled these cases confidentially with victims. In 2008, Honda issued a recall for a small number of the vehicles for defective airbags. Three years later, it confidentially submitted a death and injury tally to regulators. Beginning in 2014, many automakers began issuing similar product recalls for Takata airbags. Since then, the list of affected vehicles has continued to grow. The company and individual automakers now face thousands of lawsuits for Takata airbag injuries and defects.
In February 2017, Takata pled guilty to deceiving automakers about the safety of its airbags and paid an almost $1 billion fine. This includes $850 million in restitution to automakers and $125 million to the families of victims. In addition, Takata airbag lawsuits are still ongoing, and most have been consolidated into national multidistrict litigation. Due to the fines and lawsuits, Takata’s US subsidiary filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June of 2017.
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Can I File a Takata Airbag Lawsuit? Contact Our Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one sustained injuries due to Takata airbag defects, then you may be able to file an injury claim to recover compensation. Additionally, you may also have legal options if your vehicle contains these defective airbags. The product liability attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, LLP can advise you of your rights and may be able to help you join the ongoing Takata multidistrict litigation.
We offer free initial consultations and always work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not owe us any attorney fees unless we successfully recover compensation for you or your loved one. We have office locations in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Jacksonville and Kinston, for your convenience. Call us at (800)525-7111 or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a free case review today.