It’s way too dangerous to drive. There are over 80,000 car accidents each year here in Dallas and Tarrant Counties.
But ironically the very safety devices you count on to protect you if you are in a car wreck can be lethal.
A whopping 42 million vehicles in the United States and 100 million around the world have had to be recalled due to deadly problems with the Takata airbags.
There are still over 60,000 of these dangerous cars, trucks, and SUVs on American roads.
Are you driving one of these so-called “time bombs?”
Jewel Brangman unfortunately was. The 26-year old rear-ended a minivan while driving a Honda rental car in California. Although the impact was minimal, the airbag exploded and Ms. Brangman tragically bled to death from a neck artery severed by metal shards.
The biggest automotive safety recall in US history
That was four years ago – which was six years after the start of the biggest automotive safety recall in US history. The recall, which has tripled in size during the past year, occurred after millions of cheap, dangerous airbags flooded the automotive parts market.
How did that happen? Takata, a multi-billion dollar Japanese manufacturer, used cheaper ammonium nitrate, an unstable, explosive chemical in the manufacture of its airbags. The company was able to save $2.00 per installation in its Mexican factory. But that cheaper chemical triggers the inflators that expand the bag upon contact. Because ammonium nitrate is unstable, especially when exposed to the high humidity we have here in the summer in Texas, the airbags can explode.
Fake data, real danger
Takata faked, manipulated test data on its airbag inflators, and then covered up its massive fraud. The company knew their airbags could become grenades but lied to government regulators and kept selling them. Profit trumped safety. This corporate irresponsibility came from the same company that installed defective seat belts in the 90’s, leading to hundreds of deaths and injuries and another massive recall.
Some of the older model cars are still on the road. Many have been sold, making it difficult to find their owners to tell them about the danger and the free replacement. Almost every manufacturer used Takata airbags.
To find out if your vehicle has been recalled, get the vehicle identification number and click here.
The worst bags are found predominantly in Honda and Acura vehicles. “Stop driving orders” have been issued for these vehicles. The airbags are literally described as time bombs and car occupants exposed to the blast can suffer shrapnel injuries just like those that killed Jewel Brangman.
But you should also call your dealership, as my Lexus SUV was not on the list but I just received a notice last month telling me I needed to replace the airbags immediately.
So what happens now?
Although three of its executives are under U.S. indictment, they live in Japan and are not likely to be extradited, let alone convicted.
Takata filed for bankruptcy last June after being fined $1 billion by the US Justice Department for failing to be transparent about known problems with its airbags. It emerged from bankruptcy in February and sold its assets.
A trust fund was set up by Takata and auto manufacturers to compensate the families of those who lost their lives and people who were injured. Claims will be paid depending on the extent of injury, factoring in age, dependents, lost wages, medical bills, suffering, and other factors. A payment ranging from $2 million to $5 million will be paid for fatalities. Victims can still file lawsuits or have their pending suits heard by a jury if they are unhappy with the award.
The US agency in charge of the recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, does not currently have an administrator. Progress on the recall and news efforts to inform consumers of the potential danger in their cars and trucks has been slow.
Take a few minutes and see if you could have a dangerous airbag in your car. The most recent death was in January of this year.
And be careful when you rent a car. Know your brands and make sure you don’t do what Jewel Brangman did— trust that the car agency was renting her a safe automobile.
Talk to an experienced Fort Worth injury attorney if you are injured
If you are hurt in an automobile or truck collision, we know how to get you the compensation you deserve. Please contact us if you need more information.