Defective airbag inflators produced by Takata caused a wave of automobile recalls years ago. The inflators were prone to violently exploding on deployment. The explosions were so strong that they were enough to hurl shrapnel and metal parts into drivers and passengers, potentially injuring or killing them.
Not all the airbag inflators produced by Takata were considered defective, so they were unaffected by the recalls. But new data has U.S. auto safety regulators concerned that the remaining batch could be as deadly as the defective ones.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it will investigate the remaining 30 million unrecalled inflators. These inflators are inside over 200 car and truck models. The agency launched its renewed investigation after recent reports that an unrecalled inflator in a BMW exploded. In that incident, the inflator launched a gold-colored metal disk into the driver’s lung, which took a surgeon to remove.
BMW issued a recall for 486 SUVs following the incident. The recall comes after General Motors recalled 900 vehicles in July over an issue with their airbag inflators. NHTSA confirmed that the BMW and GM recalls are for vehicles with unrecalled Takata airbag inflators. It also said both recalled sets of inflators had issues with their manufacturing rather than the degradation of their materials.
What makes these defective airbags dangerous?
Before going bankrupt, Takata produced airbag inflators for 19 different auto companies. These parts were used for automobiles produced between 2002 and 2015.
Takata’s inflators use ammonium nitrate to inflate airbags in an emergency rapidly. However, regulators found that the ammonium nitrate cartridge can deteriorate over time and exposure to high temperatures and humidity. This led to more violent explosions that could shoot metal fragments when deployed.
There have been 26 deaths and over 400 injuries related to defective Takata airbags as of 2023.
The 30 million unrecalled inflators weren’t part of the original recalls. They contained a moisture-absorbing chemical to keep the ammonium nitrate dry.
What should you do if an airbag inflator defect injures you?
If a deploying airbag shoots shrapnel at you or another passenger and causes injury, your first course of action is to seek immediate medical treatment. It’s important to prioritize your health and safety. Even if the injury was light, it’s important to see a doctor to determine the full extent of the damage to your body.
You must then document the damage. Take photos of the accident scene, the vehicle and your injuries. Keep the medical records from your treatment, which will be important for the next step.
Consider consulting an attorney. A legal professional experienced in product liability can help you understand your legal options and determine the best course of action should you file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. The documentation of the damages will help make your case, and an attorney can review whether you have enough to make a claim.