For years there has been suspicion of problems with airbags produced by Takata. However, the company maintained that there was nothing wrong with its product for more than a decade. In a deal reached between Takata and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however, the company admits to problems with the chemical propellant used in its driver-side and passenger-side airbags. The consent order signed by NHTSA and Takata marks a major milestone in changes of approach for both the agency and Takata. Takata appears to finally be taking responsibility for the defect. Meanwhile, NHTSA is highlighting its newfound willingness to challenge parts and auto manufactures when they fail to cooperate in an investigation.
What did Takata Agree to in the Deal With NHTSA?
Takata’s deal with NHTSA signifies the airbag manufacturer’s newfound willingness to admit that problems existed in its airbags and their inflators. Since Feb. 20, 2015, the NHTSA began imposing a fine of $14,000 a day until the company would cooperate fully in the investigation. Takata did not relent in its opposition to the recall until the company had incurred more than $1.2 million in fines.
The deal requires Takata to admit that airbags installed in more than 30 million vehicles were faulty. This includes Takata produced passenger side airbags that were previously under a regional recall. These roughly 16 million airbags are now covered under a nationwide recall. Additionally the nationwide recall was also expanded to cover more than 17 million cars, trucks, and vans. Furthermore, Takata has agreed to offer its full cooperation into NHTSA’s ongoing investigation into how these problems persisted for more than 10 years.
This expanded recall makes the Takata airbag recall the largest in U.S. history. It surpasses 2000’s Firestone tire recall that saw recall notices issued for more than 2 million cars and trucks. 2014’s highly publicized General Motors ignition switch recall caused about 2.6 million vehicle recalls. Only the 1980 Ford gear shift recall even approaches the Takata recall. The Ford recall caused more than 21 million vehicle recalls.
How Many Deaths and Injuries Have Occurred?
To date, there are six known deaths due to Takata airbags. However, the unique nature of the injuries caused by the defect may mean that additional injuries and death have occurred. For instance, in one fatal accident, prosecutors initially investigated the accident as a homicide rather than a car accident. Investigators believed that the gashes and cuts inflicted to the driver’s face and throat were inflicted during an attack. Rather, as investigators later uncovered, the wounds were the result of an airbag that deployed with too much force. The excess force caused the metal inflator to fracture into tiny pieces. These pieces were then launched into the air where they inflicted horrify and deadly injuries.
The sixth confirmed death due to the defect occurred in January in Texas. The Takata airbag in the 2002 Honda Accord ruptured and sprayed metal shrapnel onto the driver’s face and neck. Tragically, this driver never even knew that his vehicle was defective. The individual had purchased the car from a used car dealer. Used car dealers do not have to repair recalled cars prior to sale. Furthermore, they are not even required to notify the buyer of any problems or serious safety defects. Honda had not yet sent a recall notice to the new vehicle owner.
More than 100 injuries have already been linked to this defect. Since officials believe that it could be years until all defective airbags are replaced, the injury count is likely to continue to increase.
Hurt in a Car Accident?
If you have been hurt in a car accident, either by a careless driver or by a defective airbag, Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak can help. For more than 20 years, Ken has fought for injured Arkansans. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak at (479) 316-0438 today or contact us online.