The U.S. government’s highway safety agency has launched an investigation into four automakers that have vehicles equipped with a potentially deadly type of Takata airbag inflator but have yet to recall them. According to a USA Today news report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in documents posted in its website that it is investigating Audi, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi in connection with a Takata recall involving 1.4 million inflators.
Fatal and Serious Injuries
The inflators, which were made by the now-bankrupt Takata, have a unique problem that can cause them to explode with too much force and send shrapnel flying into the faces and bodies of vehicle occupants. This issue caused a driver in Australia to suffer from fatal injuries while driving an older 3-Series BMW, which had already recalled more than 116,000 vehicles. The problem is so dangerous that BMW has even told its drivers to park their cars until repairs can be made.
NHTSA has said Takata did not provide details on the affected makes or models of vehicles that are equipped with these defective inflators. So, the agency is telling companies to recall them promptly. NHTSA has also said that based on when the defective inflators were products, it is likely that the vehicles to be recalled came from the 1995 through 2000 model years.
NHTSA has said in a letter to all four automakers that they typically have five business days to notify the agency after discovering a safety defect. However, it said if they have not yet gathered sufficient evidence to make that determination about the inflators, they must reply with a “detailed work plan” including a timeline. NHTSA has told the companies to respond by Jan. 17.
In addition to the driver in Australia, another driver in Cyprus was injured by an exploding Takata airbag inflator. While these inflators don’t use the volatile ammonium nitrate to trigger airbag deployment, they have propellant that could still deteriorate over time and cause a violent explosion sending shrapnel flying into the vehicle compartment.
Auto Product Liability Issues
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a dangerous or defective vehicle, you may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced auto product liability attorney will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.