Federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced that over two million Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler vehicles have been recalled a second time for a problem with their air bags. The vehicles have previously been recalled for the same problem, but now need a new fix.
The recall includes Toyota Avalons, Toyota Corollas, Dodge Vipers, Jeep Grand Cherokees, Honda Odysseys, Pontiac Vibes, and Acura MDXs made between 2002 and 2004. All of the vehicles are at risk of having their air bags inflate accidentally while the car is running. The car companies tried to fix the defects before by partially replacing the electronic control unit, but that repair didn’t always work – about 15 percent of the cars that had been fixed under the previous recall had their air bags accidentally inflate again. The new fix involves a full replacement of the entire unit.
Unfortunately, this is not the only air bag problem that has occurred this year. There is an even bigger problem involving air bags manufactured by Takata, which has caused about 30 million vehicles to be recalled worldwide. Those air bags were used by at least 10 automakers, and that defect has been linked to at least five deaths. According to federal officials, the Takata air bags at issue, when deployed, can injure or kill drivers or passengers by rupturing and spraying shrapnel throughout the vehicle. In some cases, the injuries were horrific, with metal pieces slicing the faces and necks of vehicle occupants.
Takata originally denied that there were problems with the air bags. It first only recalled vehicles in hot and humid areas including Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and parts of Texas. However, after a woman in North Carolina was injured after her air bag exploded, leaving her with cuts and bruises, many car manufacturers chose to expand their recalls.
Takata is coming under fire for the way it has handled the air bag issue. According to some unnamed employees, Takata knew of problems with its air bags years before the company informed federal regulators. Takata secretly began testing for defects in 2004, which is four years before the company claims it started testing for flaws. After three months of testing, the company’s internal research was halted and records were destroyed.
In addition, a former engineer of the company who has gone public says he is willing to testify that he left the company in 1999 because it disregarded his warnings against using ammonium nitrate to inflate its airbags. He says that he knew there were going to be catastrophic failures and he didn’t want to be associated with the company. Documents dating back to 1985 show that the company has been aware for decades that the chemical used to inflate the airbags was unstable.
Much more testimony and evidence against Takata is likely to come out in the coming months and years. Unfortunately, this comes too late to save the lives of the five people who were killed or to prevent any of the dozens of injuries that occurred because the company chose to hide data and disregard safety regulations. This is not new behavior from auto and auto-parts manufacturers – Toyota hid problems with unintended acceleration in its vehicles for years, and Chevy hid problems with its defective ignition switches for years. Both of those defects resulted in many deaths and serious injuries, yet the companies continued to manufacture the vehicles without issuing a recall.
If you have been injured by a defective vehicle, you have the right to compensation from the automaker. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more, including punitive damages in some cases. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that companies who intentionally cover up safety defects with their products should be held legally responsible. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney, today at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000 to learn more about how she can help you with your case.