NHTSA Investigates Defective, Exploding Takata Airbags

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Airbags are supposed to protect drivers, not hurt them.  They certainly aren’t supposed to explode. While they’ve been on the market since 2001, only now is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finally probing a batch of explosive airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation.  A minimum of two deaths and 22 injuries have been caused by these defective airbags to date, and unless sweeping changes are rapidly placed into effect, more accidents and fatalities could be on the horizon.

Millions of Cars Recalled, Yet Accidents Keep Happening

The hazards of Takata-made airbags first came to light with Isuzu vehicles back in 2001.  Since then, recalls have affected numerous models made by Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, and Chrysler. Even more troubling than the large number of manufacturers involved is the popularity of many of the models outfitted with these dangerous airbags, including Accords, Civics, Corollas, Tundras, Pathfinders, and Sentras.

These auto recalls included models made from 2000 to 2004, and collectively affected more than 3 million vehicles.  Since the initial announcement in 2001, additional recalls were announced every year from 2008 through 2011.  But regardless of the year of the model or recall, all of the vehicles share one fatal flaw: their Takata airbags.  In its 2008 recall of 2001 Civics and Accords, Honda cited “excessive internal pressure” which could cause the airbag’s inflator to violently “rupture.”  The result: a dangerous and sometimes deadly shower of high-speed metal shrapnel propelled into the driver’s face and torso.

However, the initial culprit of “excessive internal pressure” was later determined to be only part of the story.  In 2013, Takata notified Honda that the propellant itself could potentially be compromised by exposure to moisture if it was manufactured during the 2000-2002 period. Regional recalls have subsequently targeted humid areas, including Florida, Hawaii, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia.

Despite an endless series of recalls collectively affecting more than 10 million vehicles — making the Takata recalls the fifth largest in the history of the automotive industry — the problem persists like a stubborn, invasive weed.  As recently as May of 2014, Toyota recalled two million cars — approximately 750,000 of which were in the United States.

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“I Will Forbid My Family and Loved Ones From Owning a Honda”

The NHTSA has finally been moved to action, recently announcing plans to investigate Honda, Chrysler, Nissan, Mazda, and Toyota’s 2002-2006 models featuring Takata airbags.  The Takata Corporation has been criticized for lax regulation and bookkeeping practices, with a loose quality-control climate repeatedly cited as one of the reasons for the scope and persistence of the recalls.  Time and time again, it has proven impossible for Takata to effectively determine which vehicles are at risk, leading to wave after wave of recalls to catch spillover from the one before.  Takata management has stated, “We will aim to further strengthen our quality control system and work united as a company to prevent problems from happening again.”

Since 2005, the NHTSA has received at least four complaints from Honda drivers about being hurt by exploding airbags.  One accident resulted in the victim needing seven stitches in the head.   Another victim stated, “It has caused cuts and burns on both of my arms as well as the left side of my face.  The EMTs told me I was lucky I had large glasses on as they probably kept me from getting hit in the eye.  I also am suffering from hearing problems since the explosion of the airbag. My right ear has partial hearing with moderate ringing and pain, my left ear sounds like I’m sitting in a field of crickets.  It makes horrible cracking and shrill whistling sounds.”

One Texan and owner of a 2002 Honda Civic wrote, “I had not received any prior information regarding the lethal airbag defect.  Honda has been irresponsible and apathetic regarding my situation and the problem in general.  I could have easily been injured worse or killed by the fragments, yet the company seems to not take the problem seriously.  I will absolutely never own another Honda, will forbid my family and loved ones from owning a Honda.”  The same driver says they required 29 stitches, and now lives with “permanent scarring.”  Whether incorrect pressure or improperly manufactured propellant is to blame — it’s difficult to definitively tell since Takata keeps changing its explanation — the result is the same for the innocent motorists: they are driving with ticking time-bombs hidden right in front of them.

If you or someone you love has been hurt by a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  To schedule your free and private legal consultation with the personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm, call (215) 246-9000, or contact us online.

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