Modern vehicles feature a wide array of devices intended to keep occupants safe in a car accident. The United States has required airbags for both front passengers in all cars and light trucks since 1998. Today, many cars have several airbags in various places to help prevent injuries to people inside.
The automotive airbag was patented in 1953 and was used sporadically into the 1980’s by manufacturers. The early airbags had gained a reputation for being dangerous to small children and even petite-framed adults, and 1970’s research claimed the three-point seatbelt was a safer restraint system.
Modern research has shown that airbags can significantly reduce certain injuries when they work correctly. Faulty, defective airbags that do not inflate correctly can be much worse than having no airbag at all. In recent years, millions of vehicles have been recalled because of faulty airbags.
The Takata Airbag Recall
Problems with defective Takata-made airbags first became apparent in 1998, when Honda identified more than 100 injuries and 13 deaths from defective airbags. Defective airbags made by Takata continued to be installed in vehicles well in the mid-2010’s. Recalls of vehicles continue to be announced worldwide as manufacturers identify models that used the defective airbags.
Currently, at least 41.6 million cars and light trucks in the United States have been issued a recall. Models from 34 different manufacturers may have defective airbags installed that are known to explode.
The Problem With Takata Airbags
Takata Holdings, Inc. admitted guilt for failing to disclose the public of a known defect. Facilities owned by Takata mishandled the chemical propellant that inflates the airbag. These vehicles are prone to experiencing a violent explosion from the airbag that often sends shrapnel flying toward the occupants of the vehicle.
It has been determined that moisture was the primary culprit. The propellant would become unstable after exposure to moisture and cause the excessive explosion. Virtually all deaths and injuries reported worldwide from defective Takata airbags have involved vehicles made by Honda.
How to Know If Your Car is Affected
In the United States, vehicle recalls are initiated at one of two levels. A manufacturer may identify an error and voluntarily recall the affected vehicles. This is the most common way recalls happen. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues recalls when a safety defect has been identified. NHTSA issued more than 1,000 recalls in 2018, most dealing with airbags, tires, seatbelts, and safety features.Â
When a person is injured by a defective safety feature -such as an airbag- the injured person should file a report with the NHTSA. Your personal injury lawyer should make sure this happens, also. When NHTSA has received a report of a safety defect, they will look into it. If they receive several related to the same complaint, an investigation will be ordered.Â
Vehicle Identification Number
Every vehicle sold in the United States will have a vehicle identification number, or VIN. VIN numbers follow a standardized pattern that was adopted by US manufacturers in the early 1980s. A VIN is a 17-digit code that denotes information about your specific vehicle. You can think of it like a fingerprint that identifies your unique car from all others, even the same make, model, and options.
When NHTSA issues a recall, they do so by ordering cars within a specific VIN range. Because the VIN details things like the particular plant the vehicle was built in and the day it was completed, the NHTSA can more accurately identify vehicles that have a likely defect.
You can find your VIN on a metal tag at the bottom of the drivers side of the windshield, on the drivers door or post, and on your vehicle registration information. The NHTSA has a very easy to use free online VIN checker that will quickly show any recalls for your vehicle.
Other Airbag Recalls
Takata isnâ€™t the only company to see a recall, but the Takata recall is the largest in US history. Numerous other recalls have been issued by NHTSA, including 243 separate recalls for defective airbags in the last five years.
Airbags can have many types of defects. Some do not inflate all the way, causing them to be ineffective. Others have deployed suddenly and without warning when no accident has happened. This can obviously cause serious injury and a car accident.
Most defective airbags are plagued with sensor problems. The most common recall for airbags is for sensors that intermittently turn off the airbag system. This can cause the airbags to not deploy in a car accident and can result in much worse injuries than if the airbags had worked.
What to Do if Your Car Has Defects
If you find that your vehicle has a safety recall active with the NHTSA, the first step is to contact the vehicle manufacturer. A good place to start is by contacting your local service department. You should have the recall issue number from the NHTSA website and your VIN. The service department should schedule an appointment to inspect and correct the defect on your car.
If the service department does not schedule a repair or refuses to repair your vehicle, you should ask the NHTSA for help. The NHTSA is responsible for issuing recalls and enforcing the laws that require manufacturers to repair defects.
How We Can Help
Defective airbags that cause injuries to you and your family can leave you with huge medical bills. You might be unable to work or care for your family. The damage to your vehicle can be expensive to repair and without transportation, it may seem you may have few options.
The car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky will work with the manufacturer, the NHTSA, and the insurance companies to correctly file your claim and ensure you have the medical coverage, financial support, and the long-term benefits you and your family will need. Our attorneys will fight on your behlaf to hold the responsible company liable for your injuries and prevent the insurance companies from bullying you into a settlement that doesn’t meet your needs.
The Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky provides a risk-free consultation that is intended to