Takata Airbags Lawsuit
Takata airbags can result in an excessive inflator pressure that sprays metal shards that cause major cuts and lacerations.
Japanese auto safety parts manufacturer Takata is one of the world’s largest airbag suppliers. While airbags are designed to prevent injuries and fatalities, Takata airbags have the dubious distinction of causing at least 14 deaths and more than 150 injuries.
Tens of millions of U.S.-sold vehicles contain Takata airbags that are ticking time-bombs, capable of exploding and sending metal shrapnel shooting into the cabin upon deployment. (Use the NHTSA’s VIN look-up tool to find out if your vehicle is involved in the Takata recall.)
Takata has known since at least 2004 that its airbag inflators could rupture and spew metal debris, but it waited until 2015 to formally acknowledge the safety risk and issue a nationwide recall.
The U.S. Department of Traffic hit Takata with a record $200 million fine for delaying and denying the release of information that could have prevented motorist harm.
Victims of exploding Takata airbags are citing similar causes of action in personal injury lawsuits filed against the company.
Defective Airbag Inflators Can Explode, Spray Shrapnel
Airbag-related injuries and even deaths are not unheard of. The safety devices are deployed with an explosive outburst that, on rare occasions, breaks noses and bones, and causes spinal injuries. But the injury risk is mostly limited to short-statured people, children, and the elderly. Generally, the number of lives saved and injuries prevented through airbag use far outweighs the slight risk they pose.
Takata airbags are a different story entirely. A design defect with the airbag inflator—a metal cartridge containing chemical propellant—can cause the inflator to rupture and shoot out metal shards. To date, Takata airbag shrapnel has killed 16 people worldwide and injured at least 150.
A Democratic Senator described the deadly Takata airbag flaw as “in effect a live hand grenade in front of a driver and a passenger.”
Takata uses the volatile chemical ammonium nitrate as inflator propellant. It is the only airbag maker to do so.
An independent testing lab has determined that the ammonium nitrate can destabilize when exposed to heat and humidity over the long-term, and that problems with the inflator assembly might allow moisture to seep in.
Based on the location of accidents involving exploding Takata airbags (mostly warm weather states such as Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama), the association with heat and humidity was long suspected. Internal company emails show that Takata employees had concerns about high temperatures in 2006—nine years before a nationwide recall was issued. In an email exchange from the same year, one employee told another, in regards to fudging data to hide potential safety problems, “Happy manipulating.”
Takata discovered issues with airbag test results as early as 2000, and the company ran secret tests after a 2004 airbag rupture raised red flags. The test results, which confirmed the company’s fears about faulty inflators, were swept under the rug and not reported to federal authorities.
To further conceal the defect, Takata entered into confidential financial settlements with several people injured by ruptured airbags between 2004 and 2007.
Takata Airbag Injuries
Injuries from exploding Takata airbags can be downright gruesome.
Police responding to the scene of a minor car accident in California believed the driver had been shot in the face. At another crash site in Georgia, police thought the female driver was a murder victim because of the wounds on her throat. In both cases, the drivers died. The cause of their injuries: a Takata airbag.
In another incident, shrapnel from a Takata airbag tore into a woman’s carotid artery. She nearly bled to death but survived and now claims that her blood loss led to strokes, a seizure, and a speech disorder. A woman involved in a minor Florida car accident had a piece of shrapnel fracture her nasal bone and embed in her eye, blinding her. A Puerto Rico fender-bender left a woman with a sliced open jaw.
Airbag deployment is basically a controlled explosion that uses the same type of technology found in military munitions, as one expert, a former Takata employee, explains. Flaws with Takata airbags can result in an excessive inflator pressure that fragments the metal canister, spraying metal shards towards passengers and producing injuries such as these:
- Cuts/lacerations/abrasions to the face, neck, throat, torso, and arms
- Broken or fractured facial bones
- Broken teeth
- Loss of eyesight
- Vocal cord damage/loss of speech
- Complications from blood loss
- Permanent disfigurement
Roughly 70 million vehicles containing Takata airbags require repairs as part of the largest and most complex auto safety recall in American history. Eventually, that number could be as high as 85 million.
At present, here are the affected vehicles:
Affected Makes & Models
|2002–2003, 2009–2014 TL||2006–2013 A3||2000–2011 3-series sedan|
|2003 CL||2006–2009 A4 cabriolet||2000–2012 3-series wagon|
|2003–2006 MDX||2009–2012 Q5||2002–2013 3-series coupe & convertible|
|2005–2012 Acura RL||2010–2011 A5 cabriolet||2001–2013 M3 coupe & convertible|
|2007–2016 RDX||2015 Q5||2002–2003 5-series|
|2013–2016 ILX||2015 LaCrosse||2003–2004, 2007–2013 X5|
|2015 XTS||2007–2008 Silverado HD||2008–2013 1-series coupe & convertible|
|2015 Camaro||2008–2011 M3 sedan|
|2005–2010 Chrysler 300||2015 Equinox||2008–2014 X6|
|2006–2007 Crossfire||2015 Malibu||2013–2015 X1|
|2006–2008 Sprinter||2003–2008 Dodge Ram|
|2004–2006 Ranger||2007–2014 Freightliner Sprinter||2005–2010 Charger & Magnum|
|2005–2014 Mustang||2007–2008 Sierra HD||2004–2008 Durango|
|2015 Terrain||2003–2009 Ram|
|2001–2007 Accord (four-cylinder);
2001–2002 Accord (V-6)
|2008–2010 Challenger & Ram|
|2001–2005 Civic||2001–2004 Infiniti I30/I35||
|2002–2011, 2016 CR-V||2002–2003 Infiniti QX4||2002–2010 SC430|
|2002–2004 Odyssey||2003–2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45||
|2003–2005 Civic Hybrid||2006 Infiniti M35/M45||2003–2008 Mazda 6|
|2006–2007 Mazdaspeed 6|
|2003–2008 Pilot||2005–2011 C-class (excl. C55 AMG)||2004–2008 Mazda RX-8|
|2006–2014 Ridgeline||2007–2008 SLK-class||2004 MPV|
|2009–2014 Fit||2007–2014 Sprinter||2004–2006 B-series|
|2010–2014 FCX Clarity||2009–2012 GL-class;
|2010–2014 Insight||2009–2011 M-class||2004–2006 Lancer & Lancer Evolution|
|2011–2015 CR-Z||2010–2011 E-class||2006–2009 Raider|
|2001–2003 Maxima||2011–2014 SLS AMG||2003–2007 Vibe|
|2002–2006 Sentra||2003–2011 9-3||2008–2009 Astra|
|2003–2005 Baja||2010–2011 9-5||2002–2007 Sequoia|
|2003–2008 Corolla & Corolla Matrix|
|2003–2005 Outback||2006–2010, 2012–2014 Passat||2003–2006 Tundra|
|2004–2005 Impreza||2009–2014 CC||2004–2005 RAV4|
|2004-2005 Impreza WRX||2010–2014 Jetta SportWagen|
|2004-2005 Impreza WRX STI||2010-2014 Golf|
If you drive any of the models above, contact your local dealer about getting your airbags replaced. You may also be entitled to compensation (see below: “Lawsuit Eligibility”).
Chance of Airbag Rupture as High as 50 Percent
On June 30, 2016, transportation secretary Anthony Foxx issued a bulletin warning that a number of especially at-risk models had “as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous airbag inflater rupture in a crash.” Those models are as follows:
- 2001-2001 Honda Civic
- 2001-2002 Honda Accord
- 2002-2003 Acura TL
- 2002 Honda CR-V
- 2002 Honda Odyssey
- 2003 Acura CL
- 2003 Honda Pilot
Did Takata Enter Into Confidential Settlements to Hide Facts?
Companies with something to hide often enter into confidential settlements with injury victims to prevent damaging information from coming to light.
This appears to be the case with Takata, as some early lawsuits were settled before victims’ lawyers acquired evidence. A Bloomberg review of a dozen Takata lawsuits found that five of them settled before information could be revealed in courts.
One plaintiff’s attorney said of Takata, “They wanted to resolve this immediately. It almost seemed like they were going to pay us off to shut us up.”
Lawyers and other experts say that such secret settlements keep information out of the public domain and help to explain why for so long there was so much confusion about the exact nature of Takata airbag defects.
Evidence against Takata has reached a tipping point now that the cause of the defects—and Takata’s role in covering them up—has been revealed. As more victims make the connection between their injuries and the airbags in their cars, they’re filing lawsuits that accuse Takata of the following:
- Fraudulently concealing the inflator defect in its airbags.
- Failing to notify the public of the full and complete nature of the defect.
- Not fully investigating and disclosing, and in fact downplaying, the prevalence of the problem.
- Producing airbag systems containing an inherent, unreasonable, and dangerous defect.
- Breaching its duty to consumers by negligently designing, manufacturing, testing, and selling unreasonably safe airbag systems.
- Concealing the defective and dangerous condition of its airbags from vehicle owners, safety regulators, and the general public.
Plaintiffs claim that, as a result of Takata’s negligence, they suffered injuries that could have been prevented. Had they known about the potentially lethal airbag defect, plaintiffs say, they would not have continued driving their vehicle without having repairs performed—repairs that would have prevented the airbag explosions that injured them.
Lending even more validity to these cases, the state of Hawaii and the Virgin Islands (a U.S. territory) have sued Takata and Honda over their failure to warn residents of fatally defective Takata airbags.
What Can I Recover from a Takata Lawsuit?
A Takata lawsuit can provide compensation for the following:
- Bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering
- Disability/physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Medical bills
- Lost wages/impaired earning ability
- Vehicle damage and other property damage
You may be eligible for a Takata airbag lawsuit if:
- Your vehicle is equipped with a Takata airbag
- The inflator canister fragmented when the airbag deployed
- You suffered cuts from airbag shrapnel
Note: It doesn’t matter how the accident occurred. If your airbag malfunctioned, and you were cut as a result, Takata is liable and you could be entitled to compensation.
It also possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if you lost a loved one in an accident involving a defective Takata airbag.
Learn More During a Free Consultation
Only an attorney can determine whether you have a case against Takata. At Morgan & Morgan, we have a strong track record of taking on the automotive industry and winning compensation for clients. We have the experience and the resources needed to take on Takata and the automakers it supplied. We will not hesitate to take your case to trial if that means getting the best results.
Contact us to learn more about your legal rights and options. Don’t wait; you may be entitled to compensation.