Since the first appeared in the 1970s, airbags have saved thousands of lives.
Most people do not know it, but the airbag is an engineering marvel. A chemical propellant must rapidly inflate the bag upon impact, yet not trigger an airbag explosion. In other words, an airbag has lots of moving parts.
As outlined below, Takata took dangerous shortcuts during the airbag manufacturing process.
These shortcuts led to a record-high $1 billion fine and roughly 70 million airbag recalls. According to the most recent data, as many as five million of these cars are still on the road.
Recall notices only went to record owners, and many of these vehicles are on their third or fourth owner. More on that below.
Takata declared bankruptcy shortly after regulators handed down this fine.
But the bankruptcy court insisted that Takata form a victims’ compensation fund. Additionally, a Chinese company acquired Takata a short time later.
So, if you or a loved one was injured or killed because of an airbag failure, you have legal options.
However, these claims are complex. They always are when bankruptcy law is involved. Therefore, only the most experienced New York personal injury attorneys should handle these claims.
That’s the best way, and usually the only way, to ensure full and fair compensation for all serious injuries involved.
Why Takata’s Airbags Failed
A dangerous chemical propellant caused Takata’s airbags to fail. Manufacturers are strictly liable for such manufacturing defects.
Until the mid-1990s, Takata used tetrazole to inflate its airbags.
This stable chemical met the criteria mentioned above. It inflated airbags in the blink of an eye, but did not trigger explosions.
However, it was expensive and difficult to acquire. So, the company switched to ammonium nitrate. It was the only company to use this chemical, so it bucked the industry standard.
Ammonium nitrate is inherently unstable. This instability worsens in high heat and humidity environments.
Yet Takata ignored the risks because, according to one scientist, “it’s cheap, unbelievably cheap.”
Unfortunately for consumers, the company did not just ignore the risk, it falsified or destroyed documents and studies which warned of the dangers.
So, many people did not realize they were driving time bombs.
As mentioned, manufacturers are strictly liable for injuries related to a manufacturing defect.
Manufacturers are also strictly liable for injuries due to a failure to warn. So, to obtain compensation, these victims must only prove that the defective product caused their injury.
In most cases, this evidence is rather straightforward.
The chemical propellant is clearly responsible for an airbag explosion. These explosions cause the steering column to explode. That even blasts drivers with shrapnel.
In a tragedy this big, there is usually more than one responsible party.
Automakers who failed to notify actual owners about defective airbags could be partially responsible as well.
Procedurally, most victims file claims against Takata. Then, the company can try to place some of the blame on an automaker.
Your Claim for Damages
The aforementioned fine included a $125 million victims’ compensation fund.
That sounds like a lot of money, but it will disappear fast.
Damages in a wrongful death case usually include compensation for lost future earnings and loss of future emotional support. These two categories alone could exceed $1 million.
Moreover, the trust fund administrator, who evaluates claims, does not represent victims. Essentially, this person represents the fund.
Thus, many trust administrators try to pay as little compensation as possible, in order to make the fund last longer.
A New York personal injury attorney, on the other hand, represents you.
Our attorneys are not satisfied with anything less than the best possible result under the circumstances.
Since the facts in these claims are usually straightforward, compensation should be high. That’s the only way these victims and survivors can move on with their lives.
Alternatively, victims could file claims against Key Safety Systems, the company which bought Takata.
Since this company is Chinese, there are some significant procedural hurdles.
Furthermore, a company which emerges from bankruptcy is not the same legal entity as the company which filed. Once again, a strong attorney is essential in these situations.
Defective airbag victims have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.