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).