Takata Airbag Update

November 19, 2014 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

automakers to conduct a nationwide recall of vehicles that contain driver's side airbagsThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called on automakers to conduct a nationwide recall of vehicles that contain driver’s side airbags made by the Japanese company Takata. If automakers fail to act, NHTSA has stated that it will use “the full extent of its statutory powers” to compel action. This announcement reflects a growing tension between consumer safety advocates and the auto industry.

For those who are still catching up with the news, Takata airbags have been under public scrutiny for being potentially dangerous. The Takata airbags were manufactured in a way that could allow the airbag to explode and send metal shrapnel flying into drivers and passengers, turning a life saving device into a deadly “grenade”. This defect had existed for years and Takata had chosen to stay quiet about the problem until they were recently exposed. At least five deaths have been attributed to the defect and several more injuries have been reported.

Most car companies at this point are still evaluating NHTSA’s call to action. To date, recalls were primarily targeted in high-humidity regions such as Florida, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and (most recently) California. Some manufacturers believe that high humidity is the primary cause behind the airbag explosions, which would only warrant recalls in high-humidity regions.

However safety advocates point to cases of airbag explosions and ruptures in Virginia, Oklahoma and North Carolina, states outside of the high-humidity range. These advocates argue that it is unrealistic to think that cars in low-humidity areas are not affected. Senators from Connecticut and Massachusetts have also criticized the auto industry, saying regional recalls no longer made sense.

All this information should prompt drivers to check their vehicle and discover the type of airbag in use. Regardless of what the auto industry does, it never hurts to err on the side of safety. For a list of vehicles that may be affected by the defective airbags, see NHTSA’s consumer advisory page here:

http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/Vehicle-owners-with-defective-airbags-urged-to-take-immediate-action

This has been a bad year for automakers. From GM’s ignition defect to the Takata airbag recalls, the trend of manufacturers ignoring consumer safety is startling. Whether it is a defect already known or a defect yet to be discovered, people deserve safe products. When companies fail to protect their consumers, devastating injuries and death can occur. If you or a loved one has been hurt by unsafe products, you may have a legal claim available. The law firm of Pickett Dummigan LLP specializes in products liability and we may be able to help you recover full and fair compensation for injuries arising from a product defect. For a free consultation, contact us at 503-405-8037.

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