Uptick in Holiday Travel Highlights Defective Airbag Issues

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Injuries

Observers believe that millions of vehicles with defective Takata airbags are still on the road. Frequently, the vehicle owners have no idea there is a problem.

Over fifty million people will hit the road over the holiday season. According to federal court master Patrick Juneau, about fourteen million of these vehicles have defective Takata airbags and need to be serviced. “It’s a tumor, it’s a problem, it’s a cancer, it’s something that’s gotta be removed,” he remarked. Juneau has launched a website which allows consumers to determine if their airbags are under recall. Usually, manufacturers only send these notices to record owners. Many older vehicles are on their second, third, or fourth owner.

To try and get a handle on this problem, the U.S. government launched an investigation into the matter in September 2021.

Takata Airbags

The first passenger vehicle airbags appeared in the 1970s. Like most mechanical devices, vehicle airbags became increasingly sophisticated over the years. 

The chemical propellant might have been the biggest breakthrough. At the moment of a collision, the airbag must inflate in the blink of an eye without exploding. For many years, Takata used tetrazole inside its products. This chemical had the ideal balance of speed and stability. Largely as a result of this breakthrough, Takata soon became the world’s largest airbag manufacturer. It supplied products to over thirty vehicle manufacturers.

However, tetrazole was also rare and expensive. The increased sales could not offset the increased costs, at least according to accountants and executives. So, in order to boost its profits, the company began looking for an alternative. In 1998, the company switched to ammonium nitrate. This chemical is basically the same compound Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City truck bomb.

Ammonium nitrate is explosive and unstable, especially when exposed to heat and humidity. As a result, the airbags often explode rather than rapidly inflate. This explosion showers the passengers with shrapnel from the dashboard and/or steering column.

Types of Product Defects

Defective Takata airbags are an example of a manufacturing defect. Airbags, as designed, save lives and are efficient. However, companies like Takata often use cheap materials or components. 

All-metal artificial hips are another example of a manufacturing defect. Frequently, hip implants have high levels of toxic heavy metals, like chromium and cadmium. These metal molecules enter the bloodstream and often migrate to the brain.

Other artificial hips have design defects. An artificial hip, like a natural hip, is a cup-and-ball joint. Every time the person steps, the friction shaves off microscopic fragments. Natural hips release organic bone material. Artificial hips release metal particles. The body cannot process these particles, so they build up and cause metallosis (metal poisoning).

Common effects of metal poisoning include hip implant failure and organ damage. As a result, many people with defective hip implants lose what little mobility they have left.

Usually, manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their defective products cause. Negligence is only relevant for damages purposes. If the company intentionally disregarded a known risk, as is often the case, additional punitive damages may be available. These damages punish negligent companies and deter future wrongdoing.

Basic damages in a products liability case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Your Claim for Damages Following a Defective Takata Airbag Injury

To protect itself from lawsuits, Takata declared bankruptcy several years ago. As a condition of this bankruptcy, the company set up a $500 million claims settlement fund. If a defective airbag injured or killed you or a loved one, a settlement fund claim is often the best way to obtain compensation.

However, these claims are quite complex. Furthermore, settlement fund managers are notoriously stingy. When the money runs out, their jobs end. So, they always look to pay the minimum amount possible.

A Lexington personal injury attorney is more than a good litigator. A lawyer is also a good negotiator. Since most of these claims settle out of court, an experienced lawyer is well-positioned to obtain maximum compensation. 

Key Safety Systems, a multinational conglomerate, bought what was left of Takata in 2018. These claims are even more complex than settlement fund claims. There are a number of procedural hurdles that settlement fund claims do not have.

However, the risk is sometimes worthwhile. Jurors often award much higher damages than settlement fund managers are willing to pay.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers