Chances are, if you drive a car, truck or SUV you have already heard of the massive Takata airbag recall. At The Reiff Law Firm we have tracked and followed this recall for several years. In October 2013, we first wrote about the, then, emerging issue. When new recalls were announced in June 2014, we explained the problems with the airbags and the steps that had been taken. On October 21st, we reported on the 3rd and 4th fatalities linked to the exploding Takata airbags and the safety problems at Takata’s Monclova manufacturing facility.
Today, we revisit the Takata exploding airbag recall by offering practical advice about the steps you should take if you have an affected vehicle.
What is the Problem With Takata Airbags?
Approximately 7.8 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States (16 million globally) due to problems with Takata-manufactured airbags. This Takata airbag defect transforms a device that is supposed to reduce injuries and save lives into one that can exacerbate injuries due to an accident or create new injuries following the airbag’s deployment. When a defective airbag is deployed, the airbag can launch metal fragments into the air. This shrapnel can cause horrific and disfiguring injuries or death.
In fact, there have already been four fatalities linked to this defect. In at least one of the deaths, police initially treated the manner as a homicide because the wounds caused by the exploding airbag appeared to be caused by a stabbing. At least ten automaker’s vehicles are affected by this problem. Impacted car, truck and SUV manufacturers include:
A recent class action lawsuit alleges that the airbag defect has also resulted in, at least, 139 injuries. As more details emerge and more vehicle owners come forward, the number of injuries can, unfortunately, only be expected to increase.
How Can I Determine if My Vehicle is Affected?
For your convenience, we have compiled a list of the vehicles, as of October 21, 2014, that are known to be impacted by the Takata exploding airbag recall on our Takata airbag recall page. However, there is still confusion regarding whether particular models are impacted. The easiest way to clear-up this potential confusion is to verify your vehicle’s status by using its vehicle identification number (VIN).
A VIN is a 17-character unique identifier that is assigned to your vehicle at the time of manufacture. The VIN number is usually located on a small metal plate that is often placed on the vehicle’s driver-side dashboard near the windshield. If you cannot physically locate the VIN, it is also listed on the car, truck or SUV’s title, registration and insurance card.
Once you have located and written down your vehicle’s VIN, you should then proceed to NHTSA’s VIN recall search by following this link or by clicking on the “VEHICLE OWNERS” tab at the top of the homepage. Then, click the “Search for recall VIN” button. This VIN recall search can provide information regarding:
- Safety recalls that have not been addressed for your vehicle
- Safety recalls ordered over the past 15 years
- Safety recalls by light auto and motorcycle manufacturers
Most major manufacturers support NHTSA’s VIN look-up tool. However, you should verify that your vehicle’s manufacturer participates.
What Do I Do if My Car, Truck or SUV is Part of The Takata Airbag Recall?
If your vehicle is affected by the recall, you should immediately contact its manufacturer. If you still had questions or had procrastinated after receiving the initial recall notice, NHTSA has already taken the unusual step of urging consumers to “take immediate action”. For most consumers, this means that you should contact the dealership that sold the vehicle to you.
Unfortunately for the people driving the affected vehicles, they may have to wait several months before the parts needed to make repairs are available. This leaves drivers with a choice: drive a vehicle with a potentially deadly defect or park it and adapt. Unfortunately for many, the latter is simply not an option since their vehicle is how they travel to work, bring their kids to school, and perform their day-to-day tasks. Perhaps recognizing the difficult situation this recall puts customers in, Toyota has recommended the temporary solution of disabling the passenger-side airbag and prohibiting passengers from using that seat.
What’s Next for Manufacturers and NHTSA?
The Takata exploding airbag crisis is just the latest black-eye for highway safety in 2014. Following the massive GM ignition switch recall, the now-emerging Trinity Industries defective guardrail defect, and the revelations brought about by the Takata recall Congressional leaders appear to finally be asking tough questions of the manufacturers and regulators.
It would be interesting to have answers as to why, despite Takata issuing a recall for the same problem 13 years ago, more wasn’t done by Takata, auto manufacturers or federal regulators. At least one lawsuit filed in response to revelations regarding the Takata defect alleges that “Takata and Honda repeatedly failed to fully investigate the problem and issue proper recalls, allowing the problem to proliferate and cause numerous injuries and at least four deaths over the last 13 years.”
Transportation officials have also pledged to probe the US Department of Transportation and its safety bodies, “safety culture” following this latest embarrassment for the NHTSA. The team is tasked with determining whether “[it has] the dial set correctly on risk management and our safety posture in general.” Based on the massive GM ignition switch defect and the Takata airbag defect which both lingered and festered for many years, it appears that the early warning system is not functioning as intended and that the industry is missing the mark. Furthermore the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) – another agency under the purview of the DoT – troubling support of Trinity Industries following its dubious explanation for the company’s failure to disclose money-saving changes to a guardrail design is further proof that the agency may have become too close to the companies that it is supposed to regulate. Let us hope that the Takata, GM, and Trinity recalls will provide the political impetus to force NHTSA and FHWA to take a more rigorous approach