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Understanding the Risk of Exploding Air Bags Manufactured by Takata®

Recent recalls involving exploding airbags have received extensive media coverage and regulatory activity by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other governmental entities and officials.  Airbags generally constitute one of the most effective motor vehicle safety features.  When airbags are defective, they can provide a false sense of security or even increase the risk of severe injury to vehicle occupants.  While defects in airbag systems can result in their deploying at the wrong time, deploying too aggressively or failing to deploy at all, the Takata® airbag recalls are related to a novel and especially alarming risk – exploding airbags.

The record setting scope of the Takata® airbag defect recall includes approximately 17 million vehicles in the U.S. and ten different automakers.  While the majority of vehicles covered by the recall are models that were issued from 2002 through 2008, the recall has been expanded to cover vehicles through 2014 in certain cases.  This blog post provides important information that owners of vehicles included in the recalls need to know.

What danger do the Takata® airbags subject to recall pose to vehicle occupants?

The airbags have been exploding when they inflate causing the propulsion of shrapnel that can cause serious injuries.  The defect has resulted in more than a hundred reported injuries and six fatalities as of April 30, 2015.  While multiple investigations have failed to produce a definitive answer regarding the cause of the defect, the explosions that occur when the airbags inflate cause shrapnel from the metal airbag inflator to be propelled at vehicle occupants.

How prevalent are airbags manufactured by Takata®?

Takata® is by far the leading manufacturer of airbags with approximately one-fifth of the market.  Although the company is losing market-share because of the exploding airbag recalls, the manufacturer remains the leading producer of air bags for Honda.

Are only vehicles in high humidity areas at-risk?

Although the air bag manufacturer initially confined its recall to air bags in vehicles in high humidity areas, the theory that the danger is confined only to these geographic locations has now been debunked.  However, the risk might still be higher in high humidity regions because the chemical (ammonium nitrate) used to cause the explosive reaction that expands the air bag tends to become unstable when vehicle temperatures reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.  Moisture also was considered to be a factor which resulted in a small initial recall limited to vehicles in hot humid areas.  In Florida, the internal temperature in a vehicle during a hot humid summer day can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why is the recall taking so long to completely implement?

While the enormous scope of the recall has slowed the process of getting all of the faulty air bags replaced, Takata® allegedly contributed to these delays by resisting efforts to expand the recall and dragging its feet in implementing the recalls.

When the first reported Takata® air bag explosion occurred in a Honda Accord in Alabama in 2004, causing injury to the driver from shrapnel, Honda® deemed the incident “an anomaly” and declined to issue a recall or elicit the involvement of federal vehicle safety regulators. The potential risk of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the 2004 incident despite multiple red flags, which included 3 additional air bag rupture injury incidents reported to Honda according to a New York Times report based on regulatory filings, interviews and court documents.

The New York Times report also indicated that Takata’s failure to concede that the defect extended to more than a small number of Honda vehicles resulted in significant delays in Toyota, BMW and Nissan realizing that they had a substantial number of vehicles equipped with the defective air bags.

Greenberg Stone and Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

If you have been injured in a Florida car accident or by a defective air bag, the Miami Personal Injury Attorneys at Greenberg Stone and Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

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