Nearly 6 million General Motors vehicles with defective Takata airbag inflators are being recalled, the latest step in a massive product failure that is far from resolved.
A driver in Mesa, Ariz., for instance, died after an Aug. 20 crash in a Honda Civic after the airbag ruptured. The now-bankrupt Takata sold the faulty equipment to many car makers. The ammonium-nitrate based propellant in the airbags can deteriorate over time or because of heat and humidity, causing the bags to send shrapnel-like fragments throughout the car when the airbags deploy, such as after a crash.
GM resisted the latest recall for four years, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration turned back the carmaker’s argument that the cars were not a risk—and on Nov. 20 gave GM 30 days to come up with a plan to notify vehicle owners and replace the inflators.
The new recall covers SUVs and pickups from model years 2007-2014.
“It should have been done sooner,” said Frank Melton of Newsome Melton. “It’s going to happen with more frequency with more manufacturers.”
Melton said the GM recall is just one example of what is to come. The initial Takata recalls featured older cars, but the faulty part was used until 2015, so many later-model vehicles will be subject to recall as they age and the risk of explosion increases.
And many cars that already have been recalled still do not have safer replacement parts installed yet. In the August Arizona crash, Honda claims it sent 15 letters to the owner about the recall. and had left a notice on the owner’s door. The driver who died was not the registered owner.
Melton said too often, cars with the defective airbags are resold to unsuspecting buyers. He recently settled a case for a pregnant South Florida woman who was driving her boyfriend’s Ford Mustang when she was hit by another car. The airbag sent shrapnel flying, slicing her abdomen but her fetus survived. The defendants had argued that the car was sold “as is” by a dealer and that Florida law doesn’t require sellers to disclose pending recalls.
“They should at least warn you, so you can have it fixed,” Melton said. Melton argued that consumers should be able to expect a car is free from obvious defects like a recalled part. A federal judge decided there was a possibility under Florida law that the “as is” defense would not cover a patent defect. The lawsuit against Ford and the car dealer has since been settled.
Melton said attorneys should keep an eye out for cases since more consumers may face injuries. And drivers should check the NHTSA website or Newsome Melton’s listing using their car’s VIN to see whether their airbags have been recalled. Anyone buying a used car should also check whether it has the faulty part, instead of relying on a dealer to tell them about it.
“Their [dealers’] sole goal is to sell the cars and move them off their lots. They’re not concerned with the purchasers’ safety,” Melton said.
If you have questions about this topic or need assistance filing an airbag claim, Newsome Melton can help. Contact us at 1-888-380-2809.