Frontal airbags have been required in all new passenger cars since the 1999 model year. What happens when the devices that are installed to protect us from injury actually inflict it? The Takata Recall has been ongoing for three years but many vehicles are still affected. With Takata filing for bankruptcy and a reported delay in inflator-replacement kits, when will we see an end to this recall?
Takata Recall Background
The Takata airbag recall prompted one of the largest recalls in U.S. history with 37 million vehicles falling under the recall. In 2015, the NHTSA established various deadlines for automakers to complete replacements of the potentially explosive airbags. By the end of 2017, none of the 12 automakers that sold the airbags with the most dangerous recalls met the first deadline. The recalls were to begin in phases based on the vehicles’ locations and ages. According to an article from Consumer Reports, “the Takata inflators seem to be vulnerable to persistent high humidity and high-temperature conditions, such as in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Gulf Coast states, Hawaii, and island territories.” In some cases, the airbag’s inflators have ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing separates during a crash, metal shards from the airbag can spray throughout the vehicle—a potentially dangerous outcome from these life-saving devices. Still, 7 million of the roughly 20 million airbags in the highest-priority groups have yet to be replaced according to the NHTSA. The Takata airbags were mostly installed in cars from the model year 2002 – 2015.
How Will this Affect Me?
There are over 30 automakers that used Takata airbags and fall under the recall list. From Tesla to Honda, there is a wide range of models affected by the recall. Beginning December 2019, additional airbags are scheduled to be recalled bringing the total number of affected airbags to 65 - 70 million. To stay in the know about new recalls, you can sign up for Recall Alerts and make sure your address is correct on your registration, so you will be notified. The NHTSA has an ongoing list of these models but to get the most up to date information you need to subscribe to the recall list. Any vehicle recall is serious and affects the safety of you and your passengers. The NHTSA estimates that as of 2015, frontal airbags have saved 44,869 lives. Takata stated in June of 2015 that it was aware of 88 total ruptures out of, what they calculated, over 1.2 million airbag deployments over 15 years. Of these ruptures, “fifteen fatalities and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbags, and in some cases, the incidents were horrific, with metal shards penetrating a driver’s face and neck.”
With demand for the replacements so high, Takata has involved other major parts distributors such as AutoLiv, TRW, and Daicel in their production of replacement inflator kits. They expect that while using only half of the competitor’s products in current kits, that number will reach more than 70 percent in years to come. As of January 2018, the NHTSA says that the airbag shortages have been significantly reduced. By ramping up the production of the airbag kits, Takata has been able to produce a million replacement kits a month. Even with this increase, the reality is that some airbags may have to be replaced a second time, stretching the recall into an incalculable amount of years to come. While the NHTSA indicates that the inflators are vulnerable in high humidity areas there have been confirmed deaths outside of the priority recall area and they should not be ignored. The NHTSA organized the U.S. into three zones as follows:
Zone A includes Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Zone B includes Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Zone C includes Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
When to Contact an Attorney
If you or someone you know how been affected by the Takata recall you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Having an experienced personal injury professional review your case is as easy as a phone call.