The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has recalled vehicles installed with airbags supplied by Takata Corporation, a major automotive parts company. The list of recalled vehicles includes models made in the years 2002 through 2015 by 19 different automakers. Called the “largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history,” the vehicles require the replacement of frontal airbags on either the driver’s side, the passenger’s side, or both. The airbags could deploy explosively, causing injury or even death.
To date, these defective airbags have been the cause of 16 deaths in the U.S. The 16th occurred on June 11, 2018, when Armando V. Ortega, 55, of Yuma, Arizona, died due to injuries sustained by an exploding Takata airbag inflator after his 2002 Honda Civic was involved in an accident near Phoenix. The death was reported to a federal agency on March 11th, 2019. The agency has urged owners to check for open recalls by keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number into the NHTSA website: www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.
In developing their airbags, Takata used an ammonium nitrate-based propellent without a chemical drying agent. This creates a small explosion intended to inflate the airbag, however, environmental moisture, high temperatures, and age can affect the functionality of the inflator. This causes improper inflation, and shrapnel can discharge throughout the passenger cabin. The deaths and recalls forced Takata into bankruptcy, with its assets purchased by a company owned by a Chinese investment firm.
Through various announcements over the last five years, the recall has tripled in size over the past year. The inflator recall is expected to impact more than 41.6 million vehicles in the U.S., involving 56 million inflators. Worldwide, NHTSA reports there have been at least 24 deaths and 300 injuries.
We at Bahe, Cook, Cantley & Nefzger urge auto owners to check for open recalls by visiting www.safercar.gov. If you or a loved one has died or sustained injuries due to a defective Takata airbag, contact our team of skilled personal injury attorneys.