As government agencies investigate, reports continue to roll in of terrifying, sometimes fatal, instances of drivers and passengers being hit with shrapnel with the force of a bullet from exploding airbags made by Japanese automotive safety device manufacturer Takata Corporation. Injuries have been described to look like stab wounds. Affected airbags—now subject to a massive recall—can explode violently, spraying shrapnel and other metal debris into the interior of the car at rapid fire pace. The airbags—the inflator component, in particular—are currently linked to at least 11 deaths and over 150 injuries. The problem is thought to occur is warmer, humid areas.
Nearly 70 million vehicles in the United States (100 million globally) have been recalled for this defect with the airbags’ inflator components, which can explode due to excessive force even in a minor accident. Evidence has emerged that Takata has been aware of the problems for well over a decade, even though the majority of the recalls began only in 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles with Takata airbags remain on the road nationwide and globally, posing continued threats to motorists. There are currently not enough safe airbags being manufactured to replace the recalled ones—forcing upon drivers a difficult—and potentially very dangerous—choice: risk driving with the airbags as they are, disable the airbags, or stop driving the vehicle altogether until the airbags can be replaced.
In a shockingly dangerous move, Toyota dealers are disabling airbags and placing a “Do Not Sit Here” decal in the vehicles’ passenger seat as they wait for the inflators to be replaced. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey, in a letter dated October 23, 2014 to the Department of Transportation, expressed their alarm “that NHTSA has endorsed a policy recently announced by Toyota and GM that dealers should disable passenger-side airbags and instruct against permitting passengers in the front seat if replacement parts for these airbags are unavailable. As a matter of policy, this step is extraordinarily troubling and potentially dangerous.”
An Urgent Request to Take Immediate Action
On October 22, 2014, the National Highway Safety Administration issued a rare consumer advisory encouraging owners of recalled vehicles with Takata airbags to take action to repair the defects immediately:
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges owners of certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles to act immediately on recall notices to replace defective Takata airbags. Over seven million vehicles are involved in these recalls, which have occurred as far back as 18 months ago and as recently as Monday. The message comes with urgency, especially for owners of vehicles affected by regional recalls in the following areas: Florida, Puerto Rico, limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.”
Takata has known since at least 2001 that its airbags were defective—when Isuzu issued a recall after instances of Takata airbags exploding. In 2004, a driver of a Honda Accord was seriously injured when a Takata airbag exploded throwing shrapnel into the car. Takata and Honda did not issue a recall; instead, described the disturbing incident as “an anomaly.” Then in 2007, Honda notified Takata of three more incidents of exploding airbags, all sending metal debris into the interiors of the vehicles, hitting passengers. Finally, Takata began an internal investigation. In late 2008, Takata shared the results of its investigation with Honda, prompting more recalls over the next few years.
Not until 2013 did Takata allegedly finally admit that the defective airbag inflators were installed in many other carmakers’ vehicles. In response, in April 2013, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, and Nissan issued recalls of 3.6 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. Chrysler and Ford also announced limited regional NHTSA recalls for certain vehicles originally sold or currently registered in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In October 2014, the NHTSA expanded recall list to include almost 8 million vehicles manufactured by ten automakers: BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. Over the next few years, several more manufacturers were added to the recall list, dubbing it the largest safety recall in America’s history: a full-blown crisis.
Recalled Vehicles Equipped With Takata Airbags
Recalls have been issued for vehicles sold by over a dozen automakers, with Honda and Acura at the center of the recall. A complete list updated by NHTSA can be found here.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving one of the recalled vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, you may be legally entitled to compensation for medical costs, loss of income, and other damages.
G&E attorneys are investigating the safety risks of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags and are actively monitoring all developments. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a vehicle with a Takata-made airbag, please contact us by submitting the form, or by calling us at 855-230-7855 for a confidential evaluation of your potential claim.