Earlier this month, the producer of airbags which have been linked to at least five deaths was back on Capitol Hill to explain why it continues to resist recalling its defective products nationwide. Japanese auto supplier Takata explained that rather than comply with U.S. government demands that it expand its national recall of vehicles equipped with potentially explosive airbags, it would instead take actions of its own to use replacements from other suppliers only if necessary.
This stance contrasts with that of the U.S. government and several auto manufacturers as national recalls of vehicles equipped with airbags made by Takata continues to expand. Specifically, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered several cases of exploding airbags last fall, it urged owners of Toyota, Honda, Nissan and several other vehicle brands to react quickly to recall notices. Currently, 7.8 million cars are included as part of the recall, though there is uncertainty regarding how the airbag defect will be resolved for those who turn in their vehicles, as Takata has indicated that it doesn't have sufficient quantities of replacement airbags to fix the nearly eight million recalled vehicles.
Installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2008, defective Takata airbags can quickly transform from life-saving devices to a lethal danger. In particular, the airbags are susceptible to malfunctions in states with high humidity such as Florida, Puerto Rico, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia as well as U.S. territories such as Guam and the Virgin Islands. Accordingly to Takata, high humidity and moisture levels causes the affected airbags to overinflate and explode upon deployment, sending metal fragments into the car.
In the case of an Orlando, Florida woman who was killed by a malfunctioning airbag, the injuries initially led investigators to believe that she was the victim of a homicide. When the airbag in her Honda Accord deployed and exploded, the flying shrapnel pierced her neck akin to stab wounds. Only after the discovery of a letter from Honda alerting customers to the potential for faulty airbags in her vehicle model was the actual culprit of her death discovered.
Understandably, consumers who own vehicles that were manufactured between 2002 to 2008 by the companies affected by the national recall will be concerned regarding whether their car contains dangerous airbags. First, it is important to locate the vehicle identification number (VIN) which is often located in the driver-side corner of the windshield as well as on registration and insurance documents. That number can be placed into NHTSA's online VIN look-up page to determine whether your vehicle is covered.
However, even diligent consumers may wait weeks or months for their vehicle to be repaired due to the shortage of replacement airbags. Further, compounding the difficulty of the recall is the fact that because the airbags were used in older vehicles that have since been sold by their original owners, many current owners will not have received recall notices sent by manufacturers. Even if the vehicle's original owner knew of the defect, there is no legal obligation for a used car to have recall repairs made prior to resell.
At The Pittman Firm, we believe that consumer safety should be the number one concern of auto manufacturers. Call us today to learn more about the Takata recall and how we can help if you are affected.