Automotive Recalls & Takata Airbags – What They Knew, When They Knew It
In 2016, about 90% of Americans who were of driving age owned a vehicle and they drove about 3.22 trillion miles (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”). With so many cars on the road, it can be frightening when you consider that automotive recalls hit an all time high affecting 53.2 million vehicles. If you were injured by a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment that was recalled, you may be eligible to make a claim.
What They Knew
Takata airbags has been called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history” by The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). These faulty products were put into vehicles made by 19 different automakers from the years 2002-2015. The problem is that these airbags can forcefully deploy causing severe injuries or even death to the driver. They also can cause metal shards to fly throughout the cabin threatening passenger safety. This recall alone is said to affect 37 million vehicles.
Ford Motor Company’s top-of-the-line Super Duty F-Series trucks have recently been put in the spotlight. They were advertised as getting better gas mileage than their other F-Series models while also being marketed as “the cleanest super diesel ever.” However, some experts are citing that these specialty trucks are giving off emissions as much as 50 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxide pollutants and suspect that the on-board diagnostic software is deliberating showing false results.
Honda Odyssey minivans are some of the most popular family vehicles on the market. However, vans that were made between 2002-2017 have second row outboard seats that may not securely latch. If the vehicle brakes quickly, these seats may tip forward causing passenger injuries.
Hyundai is recalling over a million of their cars due to vehicle malfunctions. 2011-2014 Sonatas and 2011-2015 Sonata Hybrids have front seat belts that could detach from the seat belt anchor during a collision. 2013-2014 Sonata and Santa Fe Sport models have been reported to have a seized engine on the road due to limited oil delivery to the connecting rod bearings.
(These are just a sampling of the many recent vehicle recalls that are in the news. You can visit the NHTSA’s website for a list of current vehicle recalls.)
When They Knew
Recalls are usually necessary in two situations: either the motor vehicle or its equipment (including tires) does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard or if there is a safety-related defect in the vehicle or equipment. The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”
In the Takata case, several emails were discovered from the years 1999 – 2000 sharing that the propellant used to inflate the airbags was problematic and could cause injuries to drivers. Additionally, testing of Takata’s inflaters in 1999 and 2000 at the Honda facility resulted in at least two inflaters rupturing. This happened a full eight years before the first Takata airbag recall which occured in 2008, and yet these airbags were still used in millions of cars.
A Timeline for Takata Airbag Settlements
- March 20, 2018 – Only six out of the 17 automakers have decent loaner car policies for customers who are having their vehicles serviced to replace the faulty Takata airbags.
- February 23, 2018 – A Delaware bankruptcy judge approves a plan agreed upon by Takata and its creditors to organize a trust fund to compensate the victims of the malfunctioning airbags. Automakers also decide to contribute between $90 million to $137 million to the trust fund.
- June 26, 2017 – Takata files for bankruptcy.
- February 28, 2017 – Takata pleads guilty to lying to automakers about the safety of its airbags.
- May 4, 2016 – The massive Takata airbag recall includes 35-40 million airbag inflators. This is in addition to the 28.8 million airbags already recalled.
- November 3, 2015 – NHTSA imposes a record breaking civil penalty of approximately $200 million against Takata.
- May 19, 2015 – Takata acknowledges that the airbag inflators it produced for certain vehicles were faulty affecting approximately 33.8 million vehicles.
- February 20, 2015 – NHTSA fines Takata $14,000 per day for not cooperating with the their investigation.
- November 7, 2014 – The New York Times published a report stating that Takata was aware of airbag malfunctions years before the company reported it to federal regulators.
What You Should Know About the Takata Airbag Recall
Since so many cars on the road have Takata airbags, many drivers have been frustrated concerning airbag shortages and not being able to have this potentially dangerous part replaced. Although Takata has increased its output of replacement kits, it may take years to address the millions of cars that this recall impacts. Takata has also reported that they are incorporating competitors’ products in half of the inflator-replacement kits and expects that number to reach more than 70 percent to meet the needs of so many consumers.
Additionally, age and temperature are critical factors to consider if your car has a recalled airbag. The older the product is or if you live in a humid environment such as Florida, Georgia, or Hawaii, the more likely it is to malfunction.
Some consumers have joined class-action lawsuits to try to receive financial compensation. For example, a group of BMW, Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota owners reached a preliminary settlement in June 2017. They were awarded cash payments and loaner cars until their vehicles had the faulty parts replaced.
What Can You Do
While each recall and circumstance is unique, there are many times when a car manufacturer knows that they are distributing or using a faulty device and still fails to warn drivers. If you or a loved one was injured due to a dangerous motor vehicle or its equipment, you may be able to make a claim against the motor company. Contact us today so that we can help you to determine if you are eligible to file a claim.