Airbags allegedly causing consumer death instead of saving lives

After seat belts, the most touted safety device in motor vehicles over the past few decades has been the airbag. Considered by many to be a life-saving device in many types of accidents, they are still subject to certain limitations.

For example, in most cars, an option is available to disable an airbag when a young child or someone else who might be injured is in the seat when the airbag inflates. But several lawsuits are now alleging that the airbags themselves can be deadly, even to an adult driver.

The U.S. Senate is holding hearings to investigate Takata airbags that have allegedly been involved in five deadly accidents since 2009.

In addition to company executives and representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one woman whose face was severely injured when one of the airbags exploded will appear before the Senate committee in charge of the hearings.

The testimony will allege that, when the airbag explodes, metal fragments are sprayed into the vehicle, striking its occupants.

7.8 million vehicles in which the airbags are installed have been recalled by 10 automakers. Because a theory has been developed that the explosions are more common in humid weather, due to moisture entering the airbag system, these cars are located in six states where humid conditions are more likely to happen, including Texas.

But the interim administrator of the NHTSA has urged the airbag manufacturer and carmakers to expand the recall to all states. He says that his agency has discovered evidence of ruptured airbags outside those high-humidity states.

Even when just five deaths have been linked to the airbags, that is five deaths too many. In a product liability context, one incident may be enough to start an investigation into a product before more people are injured or killed.

But how do you know whether a product has been the subject of an investigation or a recall? The Internet contains websites that list recalled products if you want to investigate yourself. But an attorney who handles products liability cases will likely be aware of any potential claims against defective products.

Rather than doing the research yourself, the best action may be to contact an attorney with experience in handling products liability cases to see if the product has been named in other lawsuits.

Source: Detroit Free Press, “Takata air bag hearing opens with Honda, Chrysler execs,” Greg Gardner, Nov. 20, 2014