BMW is recalling hundreds of SUVs in the United States because the driver’s airbag inflators could blow apart in a crash, hurling metal shrapnel that could injure or even kill vehicle occupants.
According to an Associated Press news report, the recall affects nearly 500 X3, X4, and X5 SUVs from the 2014 model year with airbags made by Takata Corporation of Japan.
This recall raises questions about the safety of about 30 million Takata airbag inflators under investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A majority of these have not been recalled. Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate airbags in a crash.
But this chemical, also used in fertilizers, could deteriorate over time, especially when exposed to high temperatures and humidity. It could explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and sending metal pieces flying into the vehicle compartment.
Injuries and Fatalities Caused by Takata Airbag Inflators
Since May 2009, faulty Takata airbag inflators have killed at least 26 people in the United States. At Least 30 have died worldwide, including people in Malaysia and Australia. In addition, about 400 people have been injured, many of them seriously. Takata airbag inflators have caused facial and eye injuries and serious damage consistent with stab wounds. These injuries have left many victims permanently injured and disabled.
Officials say many of the 67 million Takata airbag inflators recalled in the U.S. have not been repaired. Documents say the inflators in the recalled BMWs have a moisture-absorbing chemical or a desiccant that was not part of prior recalls. BMW says that it was told of a complaint to NHTSA that the driver’s side airbag in a 2014 X3 had ruptured.
Preliminary information points to a manufacturing defect from Feb. 22, 2014, to March 7, 2014. Owners will receive mail notifications starting on January 16 informing them that BMW dealers will replace the airbags at no cost to them. GM recalled nearly 900 vehicles in July with Takata inflators that had the desiccant. GM also blamed the issue on a manufacturing defect at Takata.
Ongoing Takata Airbag Investigation and Monitoring
NHTSA’s records show a complaint saying that on Oct. 23, the inflator on a 2014 X3 exploded in Chicago, sending a large metal piece into the driver’s lungs. The victim also had chest and shoulder lacerations caused by shrapnel, the complaint said. According to the complaint, the surgeon removed a gold-colored disc from the driver’s lung.
NHTSA says Takata airbags with a desiccant are also under investigation because they, too, have the potential to explode and hurl shrapnel. This investigation began in 2021 and covers over 30 million inflators in about 200 models from Honda, Stellantis, GM, Ford, Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Daimler Vans, Mitsubishi, Ferrari, McLaren, Mazda, and Fisker to mention a few. In May 2020, the agency decided it would not recall the inflators with the dessicant but would monitor them.
Takata Airbag Safety Problems
We already know that the injuries caused by Takata airbags were severe and sometimes fatal. Victims suffered a variety of horrific injuries, including deep lacerations, puncture wounds, and internal injuries caused by metal shards propelled at high speeds during deployment.
These incidents prompted the largest automotive recall in history, affecting millions of vehicles across various brands. Automakers scrambled to replace Takata airbags with safer alternatives to prevent further casualties. The recall scale posed logistical challenges, with delays in acquiring replacement parts and scheduling repairs causing prolonged risks for vehicle occupants.
The repercussions also extended beyond physical harm, causing distrust among consumers towards automotive safety standards and raising concerns about regulatory oversight. The Takata airbag crisis highlighted the importance of stringent quality control in the automotive industry and emphasized the need for prompt action to address potential vehicle hazards.
If A Defective Airbag has injured you
If you’ve sustained injuries due to a defective airbag, it is important to take several steps to protect your well-being and ensure your legal rights are upheld:
Seek immediate medical attention. Your health is the top priority. Get medical help right away, even if your injuries seem minor. Some injuries from defective airbags might not be immediately apparent but could worsen without proper medical assessment and treatment.
Preserve evidence. Keep all relevant documents, including medical records, accident reports, and receipts for medical expenses. Take photos of your injuries, the vehicle, and the deployed airbags, if possible. These pieces of evidence will be valuable in supporting your claim.
Report the incident. File a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to report the defective airbag. This helps authorities track safety issues and may contribute to broader safety recalls.
Document all communications. Keep records of all communication with car manufacturers, insurers, and any other relevant parties involved in the incident. Note down dates, times, and details of conversations or correspondence.
Contact an auto defect lawyer. Seek counsel from a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling auto product liability lawsuits, specifically Takata airbag defect cases. They can guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and help you pursue compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.