The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded an investigation into failing airbags involving six different automakers after linking at least five deaths to defective electronics. According to Consumer Reports, this is the federal safety agency’s most detailed investigation into airbags since the massive Takata probe and subsequent recall that encompassed more than 56 million vehicles.
Airbags May Not Deploy
The new investigation involves a different airbag supplier, TRW, which is now owned by German auto parts giant ZF. The new probe covers 12.3 million vehicles manufactured by six different automakers – Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Kia, Toyota and Mitsubishi. Agency investigators are looking into whether electrical interference from nearby wiring can cause the airbag control unit to fail.
This means the airbags may not deploy as they should during a crash. It’s possible that the crashes are sending harmful electrical signals though sensor wiring that damages the control units. In such cases, both driver- and passenger-side airbags can fail to deploy. Hyundai, Kia and Fiat Chrysler have already issued recalls relating to defective airbags.
All three automakers have said they will cooperate fully with NHTSA’s investigation. NHTSA has identified two serious injury crashes with non-deploying airbags, one from model year 2018 and one from model year 2019. The agency has elevated this airbag investigation into an engineering analysis, a level reserved for more intense examinations of potential defects.
The Danger of Defective Airbags
When airbags fail to deploy, the consequences can be devastating. Vehicle occupants who are in a violent crash and don’t have the protection of airbags may suffer traumatic injuries including traumatic brain injury, facial injuries, broken bones, etc. Most recently, millions of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags have been recalled for defective airbag inflators that can propel metal shards into the vehicle compartment causing serious injuries and deaths.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of an airbag that fails to deploy, you may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. If you have lost a loved one due to airbag failure, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the automaker and the manufacturer of the defective airbag.
In such cases, it is crucial to preserve the vehicle in its current condition unaltered so it can be examined thoroughly by experts for evidence of defects and malfunctions. An experienced auto defect lawyer may be able to provide more information regarding your legal rights and options.