Federal regulators have ordered the Takata Corporation to keep all of the
defective airbags it removes from billions of recalled vehicles for further investigation
into claims that the inflators have caused injuries and deaths.
Since 2008, several automakers have issued recalls to replace potentially
deadly airbags on approximately 25 million cars across the country. According
to reports, Takata airbags in some of those vehicles have deployed with
too much force, flinging shards of shrapnel into occupants. Many of the
incidents have occurred in high-humidity locations such as Florida.
According to the
New York Times, evidence suggests that Takata knew about the defects as early as 2004
and even did some secret testing on the airbags - but never disclosed
the flaws to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In February, the NHTSA begin fining Takata $14,000 per day for failing
to cooperate with requests for information.
The NHTSA has now
upgraded its investigation to the "engineering analysis" stage, which will enable it to
determine the root cause of the defect, whether appropriate action was
taken to fix the problem and whether Takata violated any federal standards
when it failed to notify the agency of the flaws.
Takata Lawsuits to Be Heard in Florida Federal Court
The latest news from NHTSA came just after a judicial panel ruled that
lawsuits filed in federal court against Takata and various auto manufacturers
will be consolidated and heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of Florida (MDL No. 2599). You can see the transfer order
Reuters reports that there are more than 70 proposed class actions that have been
filed against Takata as well as Honda, BMW, Ford, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota,
alleging that the companies knew about the airbag defect for years but
never acted on it.
In one case, a Florida woman alleges that a Takata airbag in her Honda
deployed too forcefully when she collided with an SUV in Jacksonville,
paralyzing her. The accident occurred four days before Honda issued its
recall of cars with Takata airbags in Florida and California.
Is My Car Part of the Takata Recall?
Ten automakers use Takata airbag inflators, including BMW, Chrysler, Ford,
General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.
There are several ways to find out whether your vehicle is included in
First, make sure to have the vehicle identification number (VIN number)
located on the lower driver side corner of the windshield. You can also
find it by looking at your registration or insurance documentation.
Next, use the NHTSA's
VIN lookup tool to learn about all recalls involving your vehicle. It is especially important
to do this if you have just purchased a used car, since you likely will
have missed any recall notices from the automaker and may not know whether
the previous owner had repairs made.
You could also go directly to the vehicle manufacturer's website to
check or contact a local dealership directly.
What if I Still Haven't Received a Replacement?
In the wake of the recalls, Takata has experienced a shortage of replacement
inflators for customers. The company recently announced that it is upping
production of the airbags to 900,000 units per month. Even at that rate,
industry experts say it could still take months or even a couple of years
for Takata to fully meet the demand.
Keep in mind that your car's airbag may not be defective - even if
it falls within the scope of the existing Takata recalls. Recalls are
made in batches for certain periods of time. There is no way to know for
certain if your specific airbag is faulty, which is why you should get
the repairs made as soon as possible.
In some cars, only the passenger's side airbag is recalled. While you
are waiting for a replacement, Toyota has recommended disabling the airbag.
Another less drastic course of action would be to forbid anyone from riding
in the passenger seat.
Your options are more limited if the faulty airbag is on the driver's
side. Try to limit driving, carpool and use public transportation whenever
possible until the repair is done.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a Takata airbag, the
product liability attorneys at The Maher Law Firm can help. Contact us by phone or
online to learn more.