California drivers might be surprised to hear that Takata Corporation is under fire from lawmakers for trying to hide issues with its airbags, which have been linked to more than 100 injuries and 10 deaths. At the same time, vehicle manufactures say that the airbag ruptures were caused by a mixture of design, humidity and manufacturing problems and the use of ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical.
On Feb. 23, U.S. officials put more pressure on the Japanese company and federal regulators to accelerate the recall of almost 29 million airbag inflators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating whether or not to expand the recall to include an additional 70 to 90 million airbag inflators that use ammonium nitrate.
This comes as a report from a Senate committee cited several internal documents from the last 12 years that show Takata executives were manipulating testing and quality data to hide problems. One senator said that the recall might need to be reissued because vehicle makers are replacing the airbags with ones that are just as dangerous. He was also shocked that the NHTSA has permitted Takata to keep making ammonium-nitrate inflators.
The NHTSA said on Feb. 23 that it issued a consent order to Takata in November 2015, under which the company is required to recall every ammonium-nitrate inflator eventually unless it can confirm that it is safe. The agency also said that replacement inflators could work for years but not the entire life of the vehicle, so they will need to be switched out. All of the injuries and deaths linked to airbag ruptures occurred with inflators that were a minimum of seven years old.
When airbags, child seats or seat belts fail in crashes, the manufacturers could be held responsible for the damages associated with injuries or deaths. An attorney who has experience with product liability litigation can be of assistance to an injured victim in seeking appropriate compensation.