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Airbags: The Good and Bad News

The Good News

Airbags are among the main safety features installed in today's vehicles – equipment that drivers and their passengers count on to help keep them safe in the event of a serious crash. The Department of Transportation credits airbags with saving more than 37,000 lives between 1987 and 2012.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, it turns out that 7.8 million vehicles manufactured by 10 different automakers were driving around giving their operators a false sense of security. Many cars in model years 2002 to 2008 had airbags made by Takata, and it was discovered that airbags in those cars had the potential to explosively deploy, causing car accidents, injury or death to the occupants. Takata airbag explosions have been linked to four deaths and about 100 injuries of varying severity.

When the safety issue was discovered, the vehicles affected were recalled to allow the Takata airbags to be replaced. However, with so many vehicles affected, getting enough replacements together has been an issue.

It's a Hot Topic

The danger of exploding airbags was found to be highest in areas where there is a high level of humidity . Miami, Florida, is included with three other cities in Florida in a list of the ten most humid in the country, with an average relative humidity of 73.2%. Because the area is at a higher risk, the Miami personal injury attorneys of Stabinski & Funt, P.A., have sought to stay informed about these airbag recalls in order to properly advise our clients, and provide them with the representation they need if they are injured by one of these airbags.

As the Nissan Company explained, the airbags’ propellant could deteriorate when exposed to humid conditions over time. The excessive internal pressure may create combustion that is too aggressive and could cause the inflator housing to rupture. In that instance, metal shards from the airbag could disperse throughout the vehicle, creating a very dangerous situation for the driver and any passengers.

Takata has been making an effort to cooperate with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by prioritizing replacement resources to bring replacement airbags to high-humidity areas first. Critics have become concerned, however, that the risks have not been communicated effectively on a national scale, noting that the vehicles are often resold and are driven all over the country. Just because a car doesn't start out in an area with high humidity doesn't mean it won't end up in one.

Manufacturers' Delayed Response

Although the earliest model year for the affected vehicles is 2002, many of the recalls did not happen until late in 2014. In December 2014, Ford's Takata airbag-related recalls jumped to 358,977 after adding more than 447,000 vehicles to the original recall. Honda's attempts to comply with the NHTSA suggestion brought their recall total up to 5.4 million. The delayed reaction to the dangerous airbags left a lot of people driving around in virtual time bombs for as much as a decade or more without knowing that their life-saving airbag might one day turn against them.

Takata was slow to share information about the defects as well. The New York Times reported in November 2014 that interviews with Takata employees revealed that the company initially began testing for defects in their airbags in 2004, although Takata claims those tests did not begin until 2008 when they officially notified federal regulators.

Prompt and Practiced

If you or your loved one has been injured by a defective vehicle component such as a faulty airbag, call Stabinski & Funt, P.A., serving Miami and elsewhere in South Florida. You can count on us for timely response to your concerns. As one of the oldest law firms in South Florida, our experience is wide-ranging, and our record of successful settlements and verdicts speaks for itself. Call 305.643.3100 to schedule a free consultation about your potential claim for damages to compensate your family for medical expenses and more.

DISCLAIMER: The information about past verdicts and settlements is based on the unique facts of each case. Every case is different, and future cases may not achieve the same or similar results. These amounts reflect the gross recovery (before attorneys’ fees and expenses are deducted).

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