Cross & Smith LLC


New Vehicles, Old Airbags

Aug 26, 2016 - Car Accidents, Tuscaloosa by

Our Tuscaloosa car accident attorneys have touted the importance of airbags for a long time, and we will continue to do so. However, consumers need to know that it has been years since the first reports of defective airbag recalls were announced, and additional recalls make the news with alarming regularity. According to a June 2016 Office of Oversight and Investigations Minority Staff Report, the recall completion rates across automakers are unacceptably low, ranging from .04 percent to 57.1 percent. Just as disturbing is the fact that defective airbags continue to be installed in new vehicles.

One Technical Detail Permits Recall Noncompliance

A simplified explanation of the general issue behind the defective airbags involves the use of non-desiccated inflators. Due to the use of ammonium nitrate propellants, these airbags can inflate over-aggressively in a crash, exposing vehicle occupants to metal and plastic shrapnel. Even though airbags are intended to make driving safer, these accidents have resulted in at least 10 U.S. fatalities and more than 100 injuries. In fact, it is possible that accident victims might have fared better in accidents without the airbags in some cases.

As recently as June 2016, the Minority Staff Report stated that four auto manufacturers acknowledge that they continue to install airbags known to be defective. They explain that this practice is within legal boundaries, however, since the official recall is set for the end of 2018.

The reasons for the extended recall date are not clear, but they most likely pertain to supply issues, such as the following:

  • Auto manufacturers lack enough replacement parts to equip new vehicles with safer airbags.
  • Takata, the manufacturer of the defective airbags cannot produce replacement inflators quickly enough to meet the massive demand — a problem worsened by the supplier’s major financial concerns.
  • Although some auto manufacturers are contracting with different airbag suppliers, it takes time for them to ramp up production.

Absence of a Recall Does Not Necessarily Reduce Liability

Keep in mind that the upcoming 2018 recall is not the only recall currently in effect. A number of earlier recalls date back to at least 2014, and indications are that Takata may have begun airbag testing 10 years earlier after an airbag rupture in Alabama.

Of course, before a recall causes its first accident, it can be challenging to hold a manufacturer at fault for early injuries. That said, it is certainly possible for injury victims to hold vehicle manufacturers or suppliers accountable if evidence exists that they knew about safety issues, regardless of whether recalls are in effect at the time of the injury.

Anyone who sustains injuries from any type of defective products should consider seeking legal advice as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can often identify a number of legal options available to pursue compensation to help offset the expenses related to the injury.

Additional Resources:

Defective Takata Air Bags Still Being Installed In New Cars, National Public Radio, June 2, 2016

Other Blog topics

The Many Faces of Motor Vehicle Airbags, Tuscaloosa Car Accident blog

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