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Takata Airbags: More Recalls on Horizon, Researchers Dig Deeper

Federal regulators are mulling a proposal to demand a recall of 90 million additional Takata airbags in the U.S., which would more than triple the number of defective products identified. 

So far, 29 million of the devices have been recalled, with reports that they explode when deployed, sending metal shrapnel and other debris flying into the faces of front seat passengers and drivers. So far, 10 deaths have been linked to the problem and hundreds of others have suffered serious injuries.

At the behest of 10 automakers, a team of rocket scientists set out to identify the source of the rupturing airbags. They discovered the problem was a trifecta of issues: Humidity exposure, defective design and defective manufacturing. This was exacerbated by the fact the company used a volatile substance, ammonium nitrate, in the products. 

Orlando product liability attorneys recognize these findings will be valuable to those with pending and future lawsuits against the manufacturer.

Further information gleaned from a recent prepared by the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation revealed internal documents from the company indicated the firm knew about the defects long before they were announced to the public. In fact, the company, which has already been slapped with $200 million in fines, reportedly faked safety test data even after the recalls started in 2008 and 2009.

Lawmakers widely derided the company, asserting higher-ups perpetuated a “broken safety culture.”

At the very least, the internal communications taken from the company show a failure to make sure it was properly testing its inflators and to respond correctly to ethical concerns raised by a handful of engineers.

The committee issued a recommendation indicating the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should force Takta – and any other manufacturers using ammonium nitrate airbags – to phase them out as soon as possible.

Takata has indicated that will happen by 2018.

The committee also demanded accelerated production of airbags to help effectively manage the recall process.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., urged NHTSA to recall all Takata inflators in all vehicles in the U.S. He expressed concern that a piecemeal approach to the recall is confusing to consumers and will ultimately be less effective. Many constituents have expressed concern that their airbags are unsafe, even though they haven’t been recalled.

It isn’t easy for consumers to find out if their vehicles even have a Takata airbag, although they are the most widely-sold brand in U.S. vehicles. As ABC News reported, consumers would either have to convince an auto shop to take the vehicle apart to find out or try to pry an answer out of the dealer.

The NHTSA responded to Nelson’s request by saying it doesn’t yet have all the information needed to justify issuing a recall of every single Takata inflator, and the manufacturer is backed up with making replacement inflators for the ones it knows are defective.

Meanwhile, the deaths continue to mount. The most recent was in December, when a 52-year-old in South Carolina struck a cow on a rural road near his home. His air bag inflated. He was killed when metal fragments from the inflator impaled him in the neck.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Scientists Discover What Made Takata Air Bags Explode, Feb. 24, 2016, By Laura Wagner, NPR

More Blog Entries:

Hot Coffee Lawsuits Still Pouring In, Jan. 12, 2016, Orlando Defective Airbag Lawyer Blog

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