Automotive parts maker Takata Corporation will pay $1 billion in fines and settlements for concealing information about its defective airbags. The settlement includes $25 million to the U.S. government to settle one count of fraud, $850 million to automakers, and $125 million to those injured as a result of the defective airbags. Three Takata executives face federal criminal charges in the airbag scandal.
The Takata airbag recalls are the largest automotive recalls in U.S. history. The defective airbags are linked to 11 deaths and numerous injuries. The 11th victim, whose death was confirmed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was a 50-year-old California woman who died in October 2016.
The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Parker Waichman can provide important information for those who have been affected by defective Takata airbags.
Airbag Defect Dates Back More Than a Decade
Three Takata executives, Shinichi Tanaka, Hideo Nakajima and Tsuneo Chikaraishi, were indicted on charges of deceiving automobile companies about known defects in order to continue selling products they knew had failed safety tests.
CNN reports that Takata engineers first noticed problems with a chemical mix used in its airbags over a decade ago. Aspirin-sized ammonium nitrate tablets a metal canister inside the airbag produce a gas that inflates the bag. But extreme temperature can destabilize the ammonium nitrate, causing the metal canister to explode, according to patent application documents filed by Takata.
When the faulty airbags rupture or explode, they propel shrapnel into the passenger compartment of the vehicle. The defect has been tied to 11 deaths and more than 180 injuries in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In one early death, investigators at first were baffled by the driver’s neck wound and thought the injury might have been caused by a gunshot. Further investigation showed that a sharp object from the exploding airbag has caused the fatal injury.
Takata Airbag Recall Hits Nearly Every Major Automaker
NHTSA has recalled more than 64 million air bags, installed in 42 million vehicles made by just about every auto brand on the market. The affected makes include Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Daimler, Dodge/Ram, Ferrari, Ford, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen. Car & Driver reports that the recall also affects more than 7 million vehicles in other countries.
Vehicle owners can go to the NHTSA website to learn if their vehicle is included in the Takata airbag recall. The agency advises owners whose vehicles are on the list to contact the dealer for appropriate repairs. Owners of affected vehicles have asked if they should have the airbags disabled until the repair can be done. But NHTSA advises that it is “far more likely” that in a crash, the airbag will “perform properly and protect you than it will rupture and cause harm.”
The massive airbag recall began in 2008 with a small number of Honda vehicles. The early recalls involved vehicles in high-humidity areas like Florida and Hawaii where the humidity was thought to affect the performance of the air bags. The recall was expanded to cover more automakers and regions in 2014, and eventually expanded to the entire country in 2015.
Some dealers are offering interim repairs, where older Takata inflators are replaced with newly manufactured versions of these Takata inflators. These replacements will eventually need to be replaced as well, but NHTSA recommends that owners accept the interim repair if it is offered because the age of the inflator is a critical factor in the likelihood of rupture. An older inflator is more likely to rupture, therefore, replacing the older inflator with a newer version reduces the safety risk until a final remedy inflator can be produced and installed. Owners who have an interim repair will be offered a free final remedy inflator and should be sure to have that repair done, NHTSA says.
According to court documents, Tanaka, Nakajima and Chikaraishi allegedly schemed since at least 2000 to hide the fact that inflator devices in some Takata’s airbags did not perform as promised. The three executives and others at Takata deleted unfavorable data and manipulated other information, then signed falsified records as proof to automakers that the airbags met safety standards. Court documents indicate that the three Takata executives continued to hide the safety information even as the airbags began to fail on the roads.
Legal Help for Victims of Takata Airbags
If you or a loved one sustained injury or death due to a defective Takata airbag, you may have valuable legal rights, including filing a Takata airbag lawsuit. We urge you to contact our Takata airbag injury lawyers today by filling out our online form, or calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529)