The Takata airbag recall is an unprecedented automotive crisis. A record 64 million defective airbags have been subject to recall and more recalls are to come. David Brose, partner at Langdon & Emison, said in a recent blog post that Takata isn’t the sole entity to blame, but automakers were also complicit in this crisis.
According to Brose, automakers were armed with enough information to know the airbags were dangerous, potentially deadly, yet they failed to act. As a result, 100 million defective airbags have been installed in U.S. vehicles, compromising the safety of innocent motorists traveling daily on U.S. roadways.
“A recent report by The New York Times revealed automakers played a far more active role in the ‘prelude’ to the airbag crisis than they want the public to know,” Brose wrote. One of those automakers is embattled General Motors, a company under intense public scrutiny for failing to act – for more than a decade – on knowledge that its ignition switches were defective and injuring and killing people.
According to The Times, Takata approached GM in the late 1990s with a cheaper automotive airbag design than what other suppliers were offering at the time. GM used the cheaper design as leverage over its then airbag supplier – Swedish-American company Autoliv – asking it to match the design or risk losing the automaker’s business.
“A team of Autoliv scientists studied the Takata airbag design and found it relied on ammonium nitrate in in its inflater,” the chemical compound at the center of the Takata airbag defect. Upon further testing, the Autoliv scientists found that when detonated, the airbag inflater was blown to bits because the gas was generated so fast – just like in the accidents involving Takata airbags.
Ammonium nitrate is a dangerously volatile compound that acts like a propellant to create a small explosion that inflates the airbags in a crash, Brose said. The ammonium nitrate is housed in the inflater, a metal canister designed to contain the explosion.
But, ammonium nitrate can deteriorate and become unstable over time or when it is exposed to moisture in high heat and humidity, causing the propellant to burn too fast; blow apart the metal canister; and send shrapnel into the necks and faces of vehicle occupants.
“Our clients have had shrapnel sprayed in their faces,” Brose said. “They have lost their eyesight and suffered severe facial disfigurement all because corporations like Takata and GM make decisions to cut costs at the expense of the safety and well-being of consumers.”
Brose urges all consumers to be diligent in their research to ensure they are not purchasing or driving a vehicle with defective airbags.
“Take a few minutes to get the vehicle identification number (VIN) from your car and check it on safercar.gov to see if your vehicle is included in the recall,” said Brose.
About David Brose
David Brose is a partner at Langdon & Emison. His practice focuses primarily on trucking accident litigation as well as a range of product liability litigation involving vehicle fires, defective auto products and other types of product defects. David can be reached at 800-397-4910.
About Langdon & Emison
Langdon & Emison is recognized as one of the nation’s leading law firm, having taken on some of the world’s largest corporations in personal injury litigation. With office in Lexington and Kansas City (Mo.), St. Louis and Chicago, the firm represents injured people and their families in courtrooms from coast to coast. During 30 years of practice, the firm has earned a national reputation as a leader in auto defect cases, trucking cases and a full array of personal injury litigation.