With more than 8.5 million airbag recalls for Honda and Acura vehicles alone, Takata, a Japanese automobile safety company, is believed to have sold faulty air bags to 11 different automakers, leading to the largest automotive recall in U.S history.
The first reported incident in 2004 involved an Alabama driver who was severely injured when the airbag in her Honda Accord exploded after a minor crash, shooting out small metal parts at an excessive speed.
To get an idea of how a properly functioning airbag should work, it is a controlled explosive device contained within a metal canister, also known as the “inflator”. The chemical propellant inside the device converts from a solid to a gas in just milliseconds after a collision, which inflates the car’s air bags. According to Class Action News, The defective Takata airbags are made with an unusual chemical propellant called ammonium nitrate, the only manufacture to use the chemical. The inflators containing these chemicals are designed in a way that allows moisture and heat into the propellant. When this specific chemical is exposed to moisture it is destabilized and can lead to the reported explosions.
After the incident in Alabama, Takata immediately conducted tests on 50 of their airbags they retrieved from scrapyards, according to The New York Times. The results showed that the inflators in two of the airbags had cracked, causing the air bags to burst.
It was not until November of 2008, 4 years after these tests were ran, that the recall was announced to the public. According to two former Takata employees, these tests were run in secret, after hours and during weekends with the information kept under wraps.
In an interview with The New York Times, previous employees stated, “All the testing was hush-hush. Then one day, it was, ‘pack it all up, shut the whole thing down.’ It was not standard procedure.”
There have been a reported 10 deaths and over 100 injuries in the U.S. since the recall, according to American Honda Motor Company.
Lawsuits Against Takata
A number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of those who have lost their lives and who have been victim to injuries. After a 2011 crash in Puerto Rico, a lawsuit was filed against Honda when, Eddie Rodriguez crashed his Honda Civic, according to The New York Times. When the airbags in his car deployed, sharp bits of metal flew towards him, causing extensive injury. Honda came to a settlement with Mr. Rodriquez, but the details remain confidential.
The dozens of lawsuits filed against Takata over the defective airbags have also remained confidential. According to Bloomberg News, five of a dozen lawsuits were settled before information could even be revealed in court. The lack of information throughout the last 10 years explains why there has been so much confusion involving the crisis.
Brian Nader, an auto safety advocator states in a Bloomberg article, “There’s a lot that escapes NHTSA, escapes congress, escapes the media, escapes the consumer groups. The best information is usually coming out of the product-liability suits, but they’re settling out. There haven’t been any public trials yet.”
According to Class Action News, more victims are making the connection between their injuries and the faulty airbags in their cars. A Takata lawsuit can compensate you for the following: Injury, disability, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, medical bills, lost wages and vehicle damage.
After more than a decade of trying to fix the issue, Takata Corporation remains under investigation for the exact cause of the airbag defect. The National Highway of Traffic and Safety Administration remains in close communication with the Japanese supplier as well as with the automakers to fix the problem and communicate with the public whether or not their vehicle is safe to drive.
According to Bruce Smith, Vice President of American Honda Motor Company, 17.5 million letters have been mailed to owners of the effected vehicles since 2008, notifying them of the recall. Honda and Acura dealerships will fix the effected vehicles free of charge with the option of a free loaner vehicle if necessary.
Thus far more than 5.6 million Takata airbags have been replaced.
Are You Affected?
Are you a part of the percentage still on the list to replace your airbag? Honda and Acura have made it easy for owners to find out whether or not your vehicle is affected by the recall. Simply enter your vehicle vin number here for recall information.
For more information on how to find out if the Takata airbag recall has affected your vehicle and what to do about it, click here.