If you follow consumer news affecting car owners, you have heard about a recent recall on approximately 11 million vehicles due to an air bag defect. Specifically, sixteen auto manufacturers have recalled different makes and models to replace the front air bag inflator on the driver or passenger’s side, or both. The air bags installed on cars from the year 2002 through 2008 were manufactured by Takata, a Tokyo based supplier of automotive safety systems and components. The device flaw has caused some air bags to inflate suddenly and without warning, which has resulted in serious injuries and even death to a car’s driver or other passengers.
Automakers who installed the Takata air bags have responded to the discovery of the defect in various ways based on different factors, including the number installed and length of time to acquire replacement parts. If your car is among the defective models on the Takata airbag recall list and you’ve sustained injuries due to faulty devices, consult with an attorney about your legal remedies. You might also benefit from getting answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the massive recall:
Why has the Takata airbag recall been issued?
Defective air bags have been installed on 11 million vehicles manufactured during a six-year period, so millions of motorists have been affected. Dangers include injury and death to drivers and the passengers riding in the car: There have been four confirmed deaths and more than 100 individuals have suffered injuries in varying degrees. Some of the more severe cases involved shards of metal exploding from the air bag and cutting into the skin of a victim’s head and neck.
Although air bags have saved many lives since becoming a standard auto feature, the relevant car manufacturers have established a recall of all vehicles with the Takata airbags which potentially contain a defective inflator and propellant device. However, since the supply of replacement air bags is insufficient to handle all affected vehicles. the companies are prioritizing resources accordingly. The air bag defect is more likely to manifest itself in certain weather conditions, so the focus has been on more at-risk geographic regions.
How does the defective air bag impact a vehicle?
The recall of the Takata airbag deals with the propellant that initiates the inflation of the safety device. Over time, the substance can deteriorate when exposed to certain environmental factors. High humidity is one of the leading causes of the propellant failure, especially when the exposure has taken place over several years. This is the reason that car manufacturers are giving priority to those vehicle owners in regions where heat and humidity are common, such as Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and the Gulf Coast states. Hawaii and other U.S. territories in the tropics are also affected.
According to an article in USA Today, only cars that spend the majority of the year in a humid climate have “increased chances of degradation of the propellant used in the inflators.” Tourists, visitors and snowbirds are at a lower risk compared to those car owners whose vehicles are exposed to humid conditions throughout the year.
The described conditions have been shown to cause high levels of combustion activity, if and when the air bag is deployed. The combination of factors can lead to excessive internal pressure within certain components of the air bag, resulting in an airbag exploding with too much force and projecting sharp metal particles throughout the interior of the car.
What are the dangers if my car is one of the Takata airbag recall models?
Several risks can result if your car is under recall due to having a Takata air bag. The metal shards that spray from a defective apparatus are projected at close range vis-a-vie the driver of the vehicle and many victims suffer multiple cuts, contusions and lacerations around the face and neck. Passengers can be affected, both in the front passenger’s seat and all seating behind the driver. Investigations into accidents where Takata air bags were involved show that these individuals were also at risk for injuries, mostly to the upper torso, arms and head.
There are other risks that can result when an air bag deploys improperly. When a driver suffers injuries, he or she is under an impaired condition until the vehicle comes to a stop. More severe accidents can occur when an injured motorist cannot control the vehicle and collides with another car or stationary object. In heavy traffic or on multiple lane freeways, there is a risk of several automobiles being involved in an accident due to the Takata air bag defect.
Is my vehicle on the Takata airbag recall list?
While you should speak with your car dealership or consult with an attorney for details, it’s helpful to refer to a list of car manufacturers affected by the Takata airbag recall. You should also know exactly what steps to take if your vehicle puts you at risk.
- BMW: Contact your local dealer right away if you live in a warm, humid climate, the company has prioritized care for owners living in these regions. You can make an appointment to have your front passenger airbag device replaced, as the driver’s side mechanism is not affected.
- Chrysler: The company is currently replacing the airbags on vehicles in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, though there is a short supply. Customers will be contacted as soon as parts are available. Many Chryslers are equipped with inflation mechanisms that differ from those on other makes.
- Ford: Local Ford dealerships can replace the air bag devices, so you must contact them to make an appointment. Models that are affected include the 2001 Ranger and Mustangs manufactured during 2005-2007.
- GM: Many General Motor’s vehicles are not affected by the Takata airbag recall, but owners of Pontiac Vibe and certain Saab automobiles should talk to their local dealership.
- Toyota: Owners of Toyota vehicles should take immediate action if the car is registered in states along the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and U.S. island territories. The company has responded to the Takata airbag recall by offering to replace the front passenger side device or disabling it (and recommending no passengers occupy the seat).
- Other vehicles affected by the Takata airbag recall include Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru. If these manufacturers haven’t already contacted you, contact a local dealer or consult with an attorney.
Are there precautions I should take to protect my passengers and myself as a driver?
Certain safeguards will ensure that your risk of problems is reduced, even if your car is one the Takata airbag recall models. For certain vehicles, only the front seat air bag on the passenger’s side is affected: You should not allow anyone to occupy that seat. However, the driver’s seat is directly affected for other cars on the recall list. The manufacturers and other safety agencies have recommendations for owners of these vehicles.
- Minimize your driving, especially long distances.
- Join a car pool with a person whose vehicle is not affected and whose destination is close to yours.
- Take advantage of public transportation in urban areas that offer it.
Consider renting a car to avoid the safety risks if your car is one of the Takata airbag recall models. It’s smart to first determine whether your insurance company covers the cost, as the expense can be considerable. In addition, you can find out whether your car dealership will provide a loaner car while you’re waiting for a replacement air bag.
Rumors have found their way to the Internet, suggesting that turning the air bag controls off is a precaution you should take as a motorist. However, doing so may put you and your passengers at greater risk.
What should I do if I’ve been injured in a car that’s on the Takata airbag recall list?
As you can see, the Takata air bag recall has affected a significant number of vehicles in the U.S., especially in the Southern states and territories in the tropical zones. High humidity is a considerable factor in the defective devices and the results can be devastating: In accidents related to the faulty apparatus, injuries to drivers and passengers have been severe; four deaths have occurred.
If you have a vehicle with a Takata air bag and someone in your car was injured because of its deployment, seek legal counsel immediately. Only a qualified attorney knows the relevant laws and legal remedies to which you may be entitled, such as compensation for injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses.