This week, four of the world’s largest automakers issued a massive recall for 3.4 million vehicles worldwide because of defective airbags.
According to a Reuters news report, the airbags, manufactured by Takata Corp., the world’s second-largest supplier of airbags and seatbelts, are at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers because they could shoot out metal fragments when they deploy. The four automakers involved in this safety recall are Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda. The recall affects more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States.
Dangerous and Defective Airbags
Airbags are an important safety feature in all vehicles that are manufactured today. We have come to increasingly rely on airbags to provide us with that additional layer of protection in the event of violent collisions such as head-on crashes and rollovers.
In the United States, the requirements for airbags were modified in the 1990s to lower the explosive force of airbag deployment because many vehicle occupants suffered serious injuries due to airbag impact.
However, in the current Takata recall, officials said that the airbag for the front passenger seat might not inflate properly because of a manufacturing defect in the propellant used in the airbag inflator. This could pose the risk of a fire or of passengers being struck by shrapnel shooting up toward the windshield or down into the passenger foot well.
Takata said it learned of the problem from an automaker it did not identify in October 2011. This is the largest recall for Takata since 1995 when the company was involved in a recall of more than 8 million vehicles due to defective seatbelts.
Problems Involving Global Supply Chains
The scale of this and other recent safety actions underscores the risk of huge global supply chain problems. It is becoming increasingly apparent that automakers are relying on a handful of suppliers for common or similar parts to cut costs.
There is also a lack of awareness among the public that large automakers do not make all vehicle parts. For example, companies such as Takata manufacture airbags and seatbelts for a number of large automakers. Tires and seatbacks are also designed and manufactured by different companies.
Our firm represented Jaklin Romine who was rendered quadriplegic after the vehicle in which she was traveling was rear-ended and her seatback collapsed. We were able to file an auto product liability lawsuit against Johnson Controls Inc., the company that designed the defective seatbacks for the Nissan vehicle in which Romine was traveling.
A jury awarded Romine $24.7 million in that case. Our attorneys, Brian Chase and Scott Ritsema, presented evidence during the trial that the car seat, which was designed by Johnson Controls, was too weak to withstand such impact thereby exposing vehicle occupants to significant danger.
Putting Profits Before People
The magnitude of the current recall involving Takata is not clear. Apparently, Takata supplies airbags and seatbelts to several U.S. manufacturers as well. When automakers compromise quality and safety in order to cut costs and pad their profits, it is the consumers who suffer the consequences. In the case of our client, Romine, she had no idea she was sitting on a car seat that was no better than a garden chair. Romine broke her head and neck in the crash and was catastrophically injured. Often, automakers know that their products are cheap and that it wouldn’t cost them much more to make those vehicles safer. But safety is put in the back burner as these automakers put profits before people.
Protecting Victims’ Rights
Both automakers and auto parts manufacturers can be held liable for defectively manufactured and designed parts. For example, Firestone and Ford paid a huge price for defective tires on Ford SUVs that caused numerous fatalities and catastrophic injuries. Anyone who has been injured in a car accident as the result of a defective auto product would be well advised to contact an experienced auto product liability lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing his or her legal rights.
In such cases, injured victims can seek compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, cost of hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Families of deceased victims can also seek compensation for damages such as medical and funeral costs and lost future income by filing a wrongful death claim. It is important that you seek the counsel and guidance of a reputed auto defect law firm that has successfully handled cases similar to yours. It is also crucial that you choose a firm that has the resources and firepower to take on large automakers that usually have high-powered legal defense teams. You need someone on your side who will fight hard to protect your rights and best interests.