Partner Joseph Musso, Ashcraft & Gerel’s Head of Auto Liability Practice, Answers Frequently Asked Questions about the Takata Airbag Case
As a firm that has successfully handled a lot of auto liability cases, the Ashcraft & Gerel team has been fielding many questions about the Takata airbag case. So we decided to sit down with the head of our auto liability practice area, Partner Joseph T. Musso, and get him to answer some of the most frequently asked questions:
Q: What’s this all about?
Joe: Takata is a major supplier of airbags to the auto industry, and their airbags are used in many different models from many different car companies. The defect has been identified in model years 2002-2008 vehicles. Some of these airbags can deploy explosively
One of the manufacturers involved in the recall, Nissan described the defect this way: “The propellant could potentially deteriorate over time due to environmental factors [due to many years in high humidity conditions], which could lead to over-aggressive combustion in the event of an air bag deployment. This
could create excessive internal pressure within the inflator and could cause the inflator housing to rupture.”
Basically, when the inflator housing ruptures in such a violent deployment, the net effect is a “shrapnel effect” where pieces of metal are blasted in the passenger compartment of the vehicle causing catastrophic injuries or death.
Q: I’ve heard mainly about Hondas being involved. You’re saying there are other car manufacturers involved?
Joe: Yes, there are at least 10 automobile companies involved. (See a complete list of impacted vehicles). The defect is in the component parts manufactured by Takata which are then installed in many different makes and models of vehicles.
Q: My car is listed as one that has these airbags, but it hasn’t been recalled. I’m afraid to drive it like this. What should I do?
Joe: If your vehicle has a Takata airbag and the model year is between 2002-2008 you should bring the vehicle to your local dealership to have the airbag replaced and insist that the manufacturer pay for the replacement.
Q: I own one of the cars that’s listed as having a Takata airbag. Can I sue?
Joe: Owning a car with one of these airbags is not enough to sue. Nor is it necessarily sufficient to have been in an accident in one of these cars where the airbag deployed. To have a case, you or a loved one must have been injured BECAUSE of the defect. This particular defect has a very specific injury pattern. Sharp pieces of metal are blasted throughout the passenger compartment often impaling the occupants.
Q: How do I know if my injuries are caused by a defective airbag?
Joe: Car accidents by nature are violent events, and even a properly working airbag can cause injuries like bruises and black eyes when deployed. What we’re talking about here are often severe injuries caused by sharp, flying pieces of metal released by the defective airbags.
Simply put, you need to talk to an experienced auto liability attorney–like those here at Ashcraft & Gerel–if you or a loved one sustained injuries in a car accident that you suspect may have been caused by a defective airbag. Our practice is not limited solely to Takata defects. We also handle airbag cases where the airbag failed to deploy in a crash-worthy event. If you have been in a serious accident that you believe should have resulted in an airbag deployment and you were seriously injured when the airbag failed we can also help you in that type of claim.
Q: I (or a loved one) have been in an accident that may have involved a defective airbag. What should I do next?
Joe: Once all your medical needs are attended to, and you’ve notified your insurance company, your next step should be to consult an experienced auto liability attorney. Also, it is important to preserve and retain the vehicle you suspect had the defective airbag—don’t dispose of the car without consulting your attorney. It is imperative that the evidence be preserved immediately.
Q: My accident was the fault of another driver. Do I still have a case against the
Joe: Airbag cases are known as “crashworthiness” cases. The claim is that the vehicle’s safety features failed and that such a failure was a cause of the injuries in the case. In other words, when manufacturers put safety devices in their vehicles such as seatbelts and airbags as required by federal law, they have a duty to ensure that they are properly functioning. All manufacturers works hard to pass safety tests so that they can market the safety of their vehicles with “five star” safety ratings. When companies spend more time and resources trying to pass a crash test dummy test for marketing purposes than trying to actually ensure that the safety devices will work in the real world, catastrophic injuries and death can result. No matter who is at fault in an accident—you or someone else—if the airbag was defective and caused injury, you could have a case against the manufacturer.
Ashcraft & Gerel has a talented, experienced team of auto liability attorneys ready to answer your questions about the Takata airbag case or any other auto liability questions. Please contact us today.