Airbags are intended to be a safety feature in cars, trucks and SUVs. A vehicle airbag improves safety for several reasons including that it can prevent a driver from impaling himself or herself on the steering column and because of the operation of simple kinematics, or physics. That is, the forces you are subjected to in a vehicular accident are a function of the vehicles’ masses and accelerations. However, by applying the force over a greater period of time, the maximum force experienced at any one moment can be reduced even though the total force is the same.
Consider falling onto a concrete surface versus falling onto a cushioned tumbling mat. Falling on concrete creates a more violent impact, and more severe injuries because concrete cannot compress like a tumbling mat can so as to spread out the application of the impact. Properly functioning airbags function under a similar principle of lengthening the impact to reduce the maximum force experienced. However, when airbags are improperly designed or manufactured, they can cause injuries more serious than those caused by the initial accident. In fact, as the recent exploding Takata airbag recall makes clear, a defective airbag can even lead to one’s death.
Our Coverage of the Takata Explosive Airbag Defect
At Reiff & Bily, we have been following this still unfolding tragedy for more than a year. Our first online coverage of this deadly defect was back in October of 2013 where we examined the dubious credibility of Takata’s assertion that it only became aware of the defect in 2011. We provided an update to this tragedy in June of 2014 when NHTSA announced that it was opening an exploding airbag investigation. in late October 2014, we provided another update after NHTSA issued a rare consumer safety alert to consumers in humid climates and the 3rd and 4th fatalities attributed to this defect were uncovered. As part of our commitment to protecting the public from potentially dangerous and defective products, Reiff & Bily will continue to provide updates to this situation and airbag recall as it develops.
What is the Problem With Takata Airbags?
The potential dangers of a Takata-manufactured airbag was first apparent in Isuzu vehicles in 2001. Recalls and alerts since that time have impacted numerous models made by Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, and Chrysler. Over the course of the recalls, the manufacturers have offered varying reasons for the defect. Some have blamed excessive pressure, defective inflators, improper welding, improper use of steel tubing, a foreign substance in the airbag, and a multitude of other reasons. The most recent safety alert issued by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) implores drivers in humid climates to take immediate action regarding their affected vehicle. However, regardless of the explanation for the Takata airbag defect, the consequences are often serious, violent injuries or death.
When a Takata airbag deploys and then explodes, in many cases, it launches metal shrapnel into the face, throat, and neck of the driver. This metal shrapnel can lead to severe disfigurement through facial injuries, severed arteries, and other life-threatening injuries. Tragically, as of October 2014, there are already four known deaths and at least 22 injuries due to defective, exploding airbags. Individuals who have been wrongfully killed due to this defect are:
- Ashley Parham, Oklahoma — In May 2009, 18-year-old Parham was driving her 2001 Honda Accord across her high school parking lot in Midwest City, Oklahoma. She, unfortunately, hit another car resulting in airbag deployment. Unfortunately, this Takata airbag sent metal shrapnel flying into her neck.
- Devin Xu, California — 47-year-old Devin Xu was fatally injured after his car struck several vehicles and a building in a parking lot. Xu was wearing his seatbelt and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department report stated that the “apparent facial trauma due to a foreign object inside airbag” contributed to his death.
- Gurjit Rathore, Virginia – 33-year-old Gurjit Rathore died due to blood loss while her children watched. The airbag deployed after a minor fender-bender sent metal fragments into the air. The deflating airbag in her Honda Civic actually pulled a piece of the shrapnel out of her throat leaving a gaping injury that closely resembled a stabbing wound.
- Hien Thi Tran, Orlando – A Sept. 29, 2014, accident resulted in the death of 46-year-old Hien Thi Tran. Tran suffered severe neck wounds that caused investigators to initially believe that this matter was a homicide. Investigators later determined that Tran’s Honda Accord airbag had launched out of the airbag and into her throat.
What Vehicles Are Affected?
While information is still emerging we have compiled a list of the vehicles known to be affected as of October 23, 2014. Unfortunately a broad array of popular, though older-model vehicles, are affected. Approximately 630,000 BMW vehicles are impacted including:
- 2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
- 2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
- 2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
- 2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
- 2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
- 2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible
Approximately 370,000 Chrysler vehicles are also known to be affected. These Chrysler vehicles include:
- 2003 – 2008 Dodge Ram 1500
- 2005 – 2008 Dodge Ram 2500
- 2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 3500
- 2006 – 2008 Dodge Ram 4500
- 2008 – Dodge Ram 5500
- 2005 – 2008 Dodge Durango
- 2005 – 2008 Dodge Dakota
- 2005 – 2008 Chrysler 300
- 2007 – 2008 Chrysler Aspen
A number of extremely popular Honda models contain the defective Takata airbags including the popular Civic and Accord. Impacted Honda vehicles include:
- 2001 – 2007 Honda Accord
- 2001 – 2002 Honda Accord
- 2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
- 2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
- 2003 – 2011 Honda Element
- 2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
- 2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
- 2006 – Honda Ridgeline
- 2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
- 2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL
- 2005 – Acura RL
Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru vehicles impacted include:
- 2004 – Ford Ranger
- 2005 – 2006 Ford GT
- 2005 – 2007 Ford Mustang
- 2003 – 2005 Pontiac Vibe
- 2005 – Saab 9-2X
- 2003 – 2007 Mazda 6
- 2006 – 2007 Mazda Speed 6
- 2004 – 2008 Mazda RX-8
- 2004 – 2005 MPV
- 2004 – B-Series Truck
- 2004 – 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2006 – 2007 Mitsubishi Raider
- 2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
- 2001 – 2004 Nissan Pathfinder
- 2002 – 2004 Nissan Sentra
- 2001 – 2004 Infiniti I30/I35
- 2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
- 2003 – 2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45
- 2003 – 2005 Subaru Baja
- 2003 – 2005 Subaru Legacy
- 2003 – 2005 Subaru Outback
- 2004 – 2005 Subaru Impreza
Finally, a number of Toyota and Toyota-manufactured Lexus vehicles are also involved in this massive recall. The vehicles currently known to be impacted are:
- 2002 – 2005 Lexus SC
- 2002 – 2005 Toyota Corolla
- 2003 – 2005 Toyota Matrix
- 2002 – 2005 Toyota Sequoia
- 2003 – 2005 Toyota Tundra
Put Our Defective Auto Part Litigation Experience to Work for You
For 35 years the dedicated and knowledgeable personal injury and defective products attorneys of Reiff & Bily have fought for those who have suffered a serious injury or wrongful death. To schedule your free and confidential legal consultation, call (215) 274-0072 or contact us online.