You might rightfully assume that the safety features offered by your vehicle are designed to protect you in the event of an accident. In most cases, you would be correct. But for 11 people, airbags took their lives instead of saving them. One of those 11 people was Huma Hanif, a 17-year-old Texas girl, who died after a minor accident when her Honda Civic’s airbag inflator exploded and sent shrapnel directly into her neck. Hundreds more have been injured by the same airbags, which can violently explode and spray metal shrapnel and debris into drivers and passengers, causing injury or death. Florida in particular has seen dozens of product liability lawsuits filed over the airbags claiming that both Takata and the vehicle manufacturers knew about the risks of the airbags for years, but failed to recall the cars or warn customers. The airbags have injured and killed drivers for over a decade, but Takata denied any defects until May 2015.
What is the Government Doing?
In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the NHTSA expanded and accelerated the recall, instructing the company to recall and repair millions of airbags between May 2016 and December 2019 in a phased approach based on the relative risk of explosion and injury. Millions of airbags have already been recalled worldwide, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 70 million have been or will be under recall by 2019, while other estimates put the number closer to 85 million, making this the largest and most complicated automobile safety recall in United States history. As part of the agreement, the Takata Corporation has until 2019 to prove that all unrecalled air bag inflators are safe.
Recently, the NHTSA conducted a new test on a specific subset of the airbag inflators between model years 2001 and 2003 for Honda and Acura vehicles that showed a far higher risk of rupture during airbag deployment. These airbags have a 50 percent chance of rupture during a crash, and the NHTSA has warned owners to avoid driving cars with these airbags unless driving them directly to a dealer to have the airbag replaced for free. The NHTSA also noted that ruptures are far more common in vehicles that have spent significant periods of time in high-humidity areas, particularly Florida and other Gulf Coast states.
What Should You Do if You Believe Your Car Might Be Affected?
A complete list of cars affected by the Takata airbag recall has finally been released, and the NHSTA urges consumers to visit SaferCar.gov to determine whether their vehicle is affected. Check these lists to see whether your car is impacted, and if it is, do not continue to drive the vehicle. Instead, immediately visit a local dealer to have it repaired free of charge. Florida has been designated as a Zone A priority area, which means that you should be able to find replacement parts for your affected airbag sooner.
Have You Been Injured by a Defective Product?
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries from an unsafe product like a vehicle airbag, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact experienced lawyer, John Piccin at the Piccin & Glynn in Ocala for help. Before moving to Florida in 1974, John was on the General Motors Corporation Legal Staff defending products liability cases. Call John at 352-558-8480 for a free case evaluation today.