Since reports of deaths and injuries linked to a defect in Takata airbags, nearly 70 million Takata airbags have been recalled in the U.S. That means that almost one out of every five cars has a potentially defective airbag. More and more automobiles equipped with Takata airbags have been the subject of recalls on an ongoing basis.
Takata’s use of a volatile chemical, ammonium nitrate, has been cited as one of the major reasons the Takata airbags are dangerous. Because ammonium nitrate is a volatile substance, it can become unstable when exposed to sudden changes in temperature or humidity. Typically, there is a metal housing surrounding the airbag. When the ammonium nitrate explodes with enough force, the metal housing cannot contain it, resulting in the airbag exploding and metal shrapnel being propelled through the air.
To date, the Takata airbags in approximately 9 million automobiles have been repaired. However, it was reported recently that Takata is using several of the same parts and materials which were used in the faulty airbags. This has caused significant concerns among many experts. Takata claims that it has added a substance to the ammonium nitrate that is intended to keep the ammonium nitrate dry, even in conditions of high temperatures and humidity. However, some industry experts believe that Takata’s solution does not adequately address the problem of ammonium nitrate becoming unstable during temperature changes. Because Takata is responsible for the repairs, and due to the recent discovery that Takata continues to use some of the same methods and components that were used in the manufacture of the defective airbags, consumers should be concerned.
Takata’s credibility has been questioned, as it has been accused of falsifying the data from airbag test results for years before reports of deaths and injuries caused by the defective airbags became public. On November 3, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) imposed the largest civil penalty in its history against Takata for violations of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act. NHTSA imposed a civil penalty of $200 million, $70 million of which was payable in cash. The penalty also required Takata to phase out the use of ammonium nitrate. Additionally, Takata has paid millions of dollars in settlements to the families of victims who were allegedly killed by violent explosions of metal shrapnel coming from defective Takata airbags. There have also been multiple class action lawsuits filed on behalf of owners of automobiles containing Takata airbags, seeking economic losses.
Suthers & Harper is investigating claims on behalf of people who have been seriously injured or killed in an accident involving an automobile that has been recalled because of a defective Takata airbag. You can review a list of recalled vehicles here. Alternatively, to determine whether your automobile has been included in a recall, you can visit the NHTSA website and enter your automobile’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).