Automobile manufacturers have recalled more than 34 million vehicles equipped with frontal airbag devices, which are at risk of exploding when activated causing death or serious injuries. The airbags are manufactured by the Japanese parts manufacturer, Takata, for 10 different automobile manufacturers. As recently as June 16, 2015, Toyota expanded its recall to add another 1,365,000 vehicles. To date, approximately 100 injuries and 6 deaths have been associated with exploding airbags. The injuries are similar to battlefield shrapnel injuries with metal pieces penetrating the face and neck of the occupant.
How an airbag works
An airbag is designed to inflate quickly when an inflator, which is a cartridge containing ammonium nitrate, is activated and the chemicals rapidly turn to nitrogen gas filling the bag. In some instances, the chemical reaction has occurred so rapidly and with such explosive force that parts of the inflator housing are expelled into the passenger cabin as shrapnel with devastating consequences to the occupants.
The majority of potentially unsafe airbags were installed in automobiles from 2002 to 2008. Unfortunately, this means that many of the recalled vehicles are no longer owned by the original purchaser. Changes in ownership of millions of vehicles have complicated and delayed notices getting to the proper owner.
Investigation of Takata
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating the causes of the exploding air bags, but has been unable to identify a root cause of the problem. As with most systems of this type and complexity, it appears that there are multiple factors that contribute to the risk. The factors that have been noted as potential contributors to the explosion danger, include: long-term exposure of the chemicals and components to high heat and humidity, inadequate quality controls, choice of chemicals and inflator design.
Is your car affected?
Owners can check to see if their car is affected by the recall by going to NHTSA’s recall look-up facility. The person doing the search must have the vehicle identification number (VIN) handy. The VIN can be seen from the outside of the vehicle on the driver’s side near the bottom of the windshield. The VIN can also be found on vehicle “proof of insurance” cards.
The attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger handle many different types of cases involving unsafe products such as aircraft, cars, trucks and consumer appliances. Our attorneys have extensive experience working with complex systems that fail. We are available to consult with you if you or someone you know has been injured by an exploding air bag or other dangerous product defect.
To learn more about the Takata airbag recall, contact Mike Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.