Despite the recall of millions of vehicles from many different manufacturers, Takata airbags are still killing drivers. In fact, according to reporting from Automotive News, a South Carolina man died when a Takata airbag exploded earlier this year.
The fatality in South Carolina marks the 19th U.S. death due to defective Takata airbags. It also highlights an alarming problem: drivers may not know they are driving vehicles with potentially deadly airbags.
The problem with some Takata airbags
To protect drivers from injury during motor vehicle accidents, airbags must deploy in milliseconds. To do so, airbags use mechanical inflaters. With the defective Takata airbags, these inflators may degrade over time. With little or no notice, degraded inflators may explode, sending pieces of metal and other debris flying into the passenger cabin.
The Takata recall
Because of grave concerns over airbag safety, many vehicle manufacturers have recalled millions of vehicles over the past decade. Owners of recalled vehicles should have received recall notices in the mail. If not, they can also use their vehicle’s identification number to check whether a recall is currently in effect.
A glaring omission
In the recent South Carolina fatality, the deceased driver was not the owner of the recalled vehicle. Consequently, it is not clear whether the driver knew about either the recall or the safety issue. This presents a glaring omission in the recall process. That is, it may be difficult to reach second and subsequent owners. It may also be tough to notify non-owners of defective airbags.
Put simply, driving a vehicle with a faulty Takata airbag may be akin to playing Russian roulette. Fortunately, just as injured drivers may be eligible for substantial financial compensation, the loved ones of deceased motorists may have a legal cause of action against Takata or the vehicle’s manufacturer.