If you though the defective Takata airbag saga was over, think again. Almost two million of these “ticking time bombs” are still on the roads, according to a government watchdog group.
Some 20,000 of these vehicles have “alpha” airbags, which are the most dangerous type of defective Takata airbag. According to ACCC chairwoman Delia Rickard, there is a “one in two chance that if there is a collision those bags could explode [and] spray metal shrapnel all over the car.” A large number of automotive manufacturers, including Mazda, BMW, Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, and others, used Takata airbags. Most of the vehicle recalls involve Toyota and Lexus vehicles. At 84 percent, Mazda has the highest replacement rate.
While it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide notice, it’s the consumer’s responsibility to do something about it, Ms. Rickard stressed.
Why These Airbags are Dangerous
For years, Takata scientists tried to find the right chemical propellant for its airbags. NOt just any substance would do. The chemical had to expand extremely quickly to inflate the airbag, but not explode.
Around 1990, Takata began using tetrazole in its airbags. It was a hit. By the late 1990s, most consumers had fully embraced airbags and most governments required them in passenger vehicles.
But in 2001, Takata replaced tetrazole with ammonium nitrate. The new chemical was cheaper and more widely available. Ammonium nitrate is highly unstable, particularly in high humidity or temperature environments. Furthermore, when suddenly and drastically heated, it is almost as likely to explode as it is to expand.
Nevertheless, Takata ignored these facts, as well as repeated warnings from its own engineers, and knowingly sold dangerous airbags.
Why These Vehicles Are Still Out There
Recall notices go to record owners. After fifteen-plus years, many older vehicles are on their third or fourth owner. To its credit, Ford Motor Company pays dealers $1,000 per incident to find and warn these owners. But most vehicle manufacturers frankly do not care. They do not take these steps.
Even if used car owners voluntarily take their vehicles to be services, the mechanics will probably not work on them or even inform them if their car is on the recall list.
As a result, many people simply do not know that their airbags may explode upon impact. Instead of perhaps spraying the vehicle occupants with some harmless chemical residue, the exploding airbags shower the victims with shrapnel. These defective products have killed over a dozen people and seriously injured hundreds of others.
Your Claim for Damages
All victims have a number of legal options in these cases. They may obtain compensation for both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, many Takata defective airbag victims are eligible for punitive damages. These additional damages punish the company for its wrongful conduct and deter future wrongdoing.
In New York, many victims do not have to prove fault or carelessness to obtain damages. Under the law in the Empire State, many product manufacturers are strictly liable for damages even if there was no contractual relationship between the victim and the company.
In some other states, the abstruse privity of contract rule may block these claims. But not to worry. There are other avenues available.
Negligence is the most frequent claim in these cases. As outlined above, there is ample evidence that Takata executives knew their airbags were defective, yet they kept using cheap propellant anyway. Such activity is a clear indication of negligence. Such intentional neglect may also support a punitive damages award. Victims simply need clear and convincing evidence of misconduct to obtain this additional compensation.
Defective Takata airbags still pose a danger to millions of people. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We routinely handle mass tort cases on a nationwide basis.