Airbag-related Deaths and Injuries Spur Vehicle Airbag Recalls

Airbag-related Deaths and Injuries Spur Vehicle Airbag Recalls

Airbags can reduce the chance of injury or death in a crash. But a defective airbag increases the risk of serious or fatal injuries in an accident. Four deaths and dozens of injuries linked to defective airbags produced by Takata Corporation have forced 11 automakers to begin airbag recalls of more than 11 million in the U.S.

The defective airbag inflators, made by Japan-based Takata, can explode when activated during crashes, sending shards of metal from the device’s cracked steel canister into a person’s face, neck and body, causing serious injuries and fatal car accidents, according to a New York Times article.

The propellant used to inflate the airbags is reported to be too strong for the canister, causing it to rupture and become lethal. In addition to four deaths,

A number of auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, have recalled vehicles to replace defective Takata airbags.

Consumers should determine as quickly as possible whether their vehicle is involved in the recall. Residents of Florida and Hawaii, states with high humidity, should be on immediate alert because the problem could be worse in their climate, the New York Times reported.

The National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is renewing a probe of the company’s faulty airbags after reports that the company knew as early as 2004 that its airbags were defective but continued shipping them to auto manufacturers. Takata didn’t acknowledge testing the defective airbags for four more years, which led to the first related recall in November 2008, the Times reported.

The genesis

According to The New York Times, Takata became aware that one of its airbags had sprayed metal debris at an Alabama motorist driving a 2002 Honda Accord in 2004, injuring the motorist.

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of airbags, Takata conducted tests on 50 airbags retrieved from vehicles in scrap yards, and the inflators in two of the airbags cracked during testing-a condition that can lead to ruptures.

According to the news report, Takata executives dismissed the results and directed that the test data be deleted from the computers rather than notifying federal transportation safety officials.

The NHTSA conducted a short investigation and closed it in 2010 without taking any action against the company, the New York Times reported. But that didn’t make the problem subside.

Initially, the nature of his injuries led Alhambra, Calif., police to treat the case as a homicide. But an autopsy linked the death to the airbag, reporting that lacerations in his face came from a metal part of the airbag inflator. Tears in the airbag also were discovered.

Affected vehicles

This list is compiled by the Times from information manufacturers provided to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some could be regional and not all makes and models are affected.

Motorists should contact their dealer for information.

BMW: 3-Series 2000-6

Chrysler: 300 2005-8, Aspen 2007-8, Dakota 2005-8, Dodge Ram Pickup 2003-8, Durango 2004-8, Mitsubishi Raider 2006-7

Ford: GT 2005-6, Mustang 2005-7, Ranger 2004

Honda: Accord 2001-7, Acura CL 2002-3, Acura 3.2CL 2003, Acura MDX 2003-6, Acura RL 2005, Acura TL 2002-3, Acura 3.2TL 2002-3, Civic 2001-5, Civic Hybrid 2003, CR-V 2002-200 6, Element 2003-11, Odyssey 2002-4, Pilot 2003-7, Ridgeline 2006

Mazda6 2006, Mazda7 2007, MPV 2004, RX8 2004-8, Speed6 2006, Speed7 2007

Mitsubishi: Lancer 2004-5

Nissan: Infiniti FX 2003, Infiniti FX 35 2003-5, Infiniti FX 45, 2003-5, Infiniti I30 2001-3, Infiniti I35 2002-3, Infiniti M35 2006, Infiniti M45 2006, Infiniti QX4 2002-3, Maxima 2001-3, Pathfinder 2001-3, Sentra 2002-6

Pontiac: Vibe 2003-4

Subaru: Baja 2003-4, Impreza 2004-5, Legacy 2003-4, Outback 2003-4

Toyota: Corolla 2002-5, Corolla Matrix 2002-5, Lexus SC 2002-4, Lexus SC430 2002-5, Sequoia 2002-5, Tundra 2002-5

Many more vehicles made by these manufacturers could be impacted as well.

Federal regulators make statement

NHTSA has been notified by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota that they are holding limited regional recalls to deal with a possible safety defect in the Takata airbag inflators, according to safecar.gov. Those are based on NHTSA probes into six cases of airbag inflator ruptures in Florida and Puerto Rico.

The federal agency supports automakers’ efforts to deal with immediate risks in regions where the weather is hot and humid for long periods.

Vehicle owners who believe they are affected should seek service for their vehicles as soon as they receive notice from their manufacturer.

NHTSA provides a search tool that allows vehicle owners to use their Vehicle Identification Number to learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired in a recall over the last 15 years.

Lingering problem

One factor that could affect the recall on faulty airbags is that there might not be enough replacement parts for vehicles, especially since many of them are more than 10 years old, the New York Times reports.

Toyota, for instance, is shipping extra stock to Gulf Coast distributors and requesting that they expedite deliveries to dealers in areas where the humidity is high. Because of supply constraints, Toyota has gotten permission from the federal government to disable front-passenger airbags, at least temporarily. Dealers also will put a small sign on glove boxes warning against use of the passenger seat.

Manufacturers may be held legally responsible when their products are defective and cause injuries.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective airbag, contact a Hawaii attorney experienced with faulty automotive parts who can guide you through the legal process and help you obtain an award that enables you to make your way through the healing process.

SINCE 1971. LEAVITT, YAMANE, & SOLDNER HAS REPRESENTED HUNDREDS OF INJURED CLIENTS. OUR HONOLULU PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS ARE EXPERIENCED, AND WILL PERSONALLY GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE LEGAL PROCESS. WHATEVER YOUR SITUATION, WE PROVIDE TENACIOUS REPRESENTATION AS YOU SEEK JUSTICE FROM THOSE RESPONSIBLE.