Philadelphia Airbag Injury Lawyer
In January 2015, a Honda driver was stopped at an intersection, waiting to make a left turn, when another vehicle struck his car traveling less than 30 mph. The Honda’s airbag deployed, sending a piece of metal shrapnel into the driver’s neck, fatally wounding him.
That driver was one of at least eight people who have died because of a faulty airbag inflator. A California family of another person fatally injured in the same way won a $3 million settlement in its wrongful death case; the family claimed Honda and the airbag manufacturer, Takata, knew about the deadly defect in 2004, four years before issuing the first airbag-related recall.
Honda’s initial recall in 2008 involved 4,000 cars worldwide. At that time, the defect was believed to be associated with excess moisture; later, engineers for Takata blamed manufacturing flaws at a specific factory for the faulty inflators. With ensuing investigations and analysis, Honda recalls kept expanding. By 2013, other automakers began recalling cars, and as of November 2015, the recall included 19.2 million vehicles and 23.4 million faulty inflators in U.S. cars.
The main reason Takata airbag inflators were exploding was that they contained the compound ammonium nitrate, which no other airbag manufacturer uses.
Car dealerships have been overwhelmed with the number of drivers who need airbag inflator replacements, and many people continue driving their potentially dangerous cars as they wait for repairs or for the dealership to get a shipment of in-demand parts. Some 2016 models contain Takata inflators, too. Millions of people may be at risk of serious and fatal injury, because the airbag inflators can erupt in low-speed crashes, or even when the car isn’t moving.
If you believe a faulty airbag inflator is responsible for injuring you or someone in your family, we may be able to help. Our experienced legal team has been able to achieve the best possible outcomes for injury victims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Contact Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller today for a free consultation at (800) 529-6200.
Fixing the Problem
Humidity is believed to raise the risk of inflator explosion, because it could cause a breakdown of internal mechanisms that control pressure. Accordingly, in November 2015, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced that certain cars in high-humidity areas are now “Priority One” vehicles, meaning they should be the first to have airbags replaced. Those vehicles include several makes and models from 12 manufacturers, with Honda having the most at-risk vehicles on the list.
Takata is supposed to provide the replacement airbags, but, in order to speed up the process, the NHTSA ordered the 12 manufacturers of Priority One cars to contact other airbag makers for replacement inflators. The NHTSA has set a deadline of December 13, 2017, for repairs to the highest-risk vehicles, with all other cars to be repaired by the end of 2019.
Honda has reportedly replaced 41 percent of all faulty inflators, and Toyota has replaced 27 percent of inflators in humid parts of the U.S. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean drivers are in the clear. In June of 2015, the NHTSA reported that about 400,000 inflator replacements contained a defect and would need to be replaced again!
Acting on Recalls
Car owners who hear about an increasing number of vehicle recalls, both related and unrelated to airbags, may be prone to “recall fatigue” and stop paying attention to recall notices. As a result, many people may never take in their cars for the needed repairs.
Details in the California case that resulted in a $3 million settlement for the victim’s family revealed that a car rental company had repeatedly disregarded recall notices. The woman who died was driving a rented 2001 Honda that had been recalled in 2009 but never repaired, even though the rental company had received four recall notices.
Manufacturers notify an owner of record when a recall occurs, but if the owner disregards the notice and sells the car to someone else, the new owner may not know about the recall. According to online car retailer Carfax, more than one-in-ten cars for sale online has an open recall.
When a defective auto part causes a serious or fatal injury, the parties involved often try to shift blame to one another. Carmakers blame manufacturers of the part, and some companies even attempt to blame the driver, when a crash occurs.
An experienced personal injury attorney understands how to prove accountability in such cases, as our firm has done time and time again. If you’ve been injured by a defective airbag, we want to hear from you. Call us at (800) 529-6200, or fill out our online form to request a consultation.