Nearly 20 different auto manufacturers are now involved in recalls to replace airbags in autos that were mostly built between 2002 and 2015. Some of these airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation could explode and shoot metal shrapnel into a vehicle’s passenger compartment when they deploy. Takata is the second largest manufacturer of airbag systems in the world. There are at least 11 known deaths attributable to the airbags, along with over 180 injuries. The metal shrapnel has been known to penetrate a driver’s face and neck. The fatal injuries to a driver’s face, neck and upper chest in Florida in 2014 was so severe that the death was initially thought to be a stabbing homicide.
The largest recall in U.S. history
In what the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. History,” more than 34 million vehicles have been now been recalled in the United States, and more than 40 million have been recalled globally.
Inflators and ammonium nitrate
The problem is believed to have been traced to the airbag inflators and an ammonium nitrate propellant without a drying agent that causes the inflators to explode and their housings to rupture. High temperatures, humidity, age, and even rust have been connected with the dangerous defect. The NHTSA has ordered manufacturers to first replace the inflators in older vehicles that have been recalled, and have likely been exposed to hot and humid weather conditions. Those appear to be the vehicles that pose the highest risk of inflator explosion.
Other airbag malfunctions
Inflator explosion isn’t the only issue with defective airbag deployment. Although airbags are designed for safety, they can cause severe injuries when they don’t function as intended. Sometimes they don’t deploy at all when they’re supposed to. At other times, they’ve been known to deploy too late to protect vehicle occupants. Then there are the times when they shouldn’t have deployed on a very minor impact. Children and smaller vehicle occupants are often victims of severe airbag injuries.
Claims for injuries resulting from defective products fall under the realm of product liability law. A product might be deemed dangerously defective in one of three ways:
- Design defectswhen all of the products have the same dangerous defect
- Manufacturing defects when only a few of products are dangerously defective from the factory
- Failure to warn of inherent dangers in a product
Not only must it be shown that the product was dangerously defective, but a claimant is also required to prove that the defect was the proximate cause his or her injuries.
If you or somebody close to you was injured as a result of any airbag malfunction in your vehicle, it’s possible that you have a product liability case against the airbag manufacturer, the manufacturer of the vehicle, or even the car dealership that you bought the vehicle from. If you believe that you were injured as the result of a defective airbag, contact an car accident attorney trusts for a consultation and case evaluation. Anybody occupying your vehicle can be at risk.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Johnston Martineau, PLLP for their insight into airbag recalls.