As the international recall on Japanese-made Takata airbags widens, a Miami-Dade woman has filed her own lawsuit, alleging defective airbags left her with lifelong scarring – and nearly killed her.
It’s true there is rarely such thing as a “normal” accident. After all, crashes are rarely anticipated, and the unexpected is what often makes the situation so bad. But we expect in these situations that airbags, upon impact, will protect us.
What regulators are now finding is that in an increasing number of cases, defective airbags in fact made the situation far worse.
As our Fort Lauderdale attorneys understand it, both driver- and passenger-side airbags contain too much force, and can explode when they inflate, sending dangerous fragments of metal and other material flying at the heads, faces, necks and chests of those in the vehicle – particularly in the front seat.
So far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes 7.8 million airbags in the U.S. alone have been recalled, with more than 50 affected models by nearly a dozen manufacturers between 2000 and 2011.
Although drivers are entitled to have the problem fixed for free, there aren’t yet enough parts to go around, as dealerships scramble to fill the demand after the NHTSA issued a notice of rare urgency to consumers to “act immediately” to have the defective parts replaced.
So far, the problem has been linked to at least four deaths, and it seems to be more common in regions where it is humid and hot. In Florida, at least one death (in Orlando) has been officially linked to the problem. This occurred several weeks before the Miami woman filed suit alleging injury as a result of the defect.
In the latter case, plaintiff as involved in a crash during which the airbag deployed. As soon as that happened, a huge piece of metal shot through the bag and struck plaintiff in the forehead. Amazingly, she was not killed, but she did suffer severe injury. She describes being traumatized, and says she will likely have a scar for the rest of her life. Doctors have said if the piece struck her another inch down, she could have been blinded. Had it gone an inch deeper, she likely would have died.
In the Orlando case, the Florida Highway Patrol has said it is still investigating the cause of death to a driver whose vehicle was recalled just days before the crash. Although there is not an official ruling, early on, investigators noted the woman had what appeared to be multiple stab wounds on her neck and chest when she was first admitted to the hospital following the crash. Her sister was quoted in the New York Times as saying investigators told her they suspected the defective air bag was to blame for her death.
Takata has indicated multiple theories for what might have gone wrong, though the most likely scenario is that one chemical inside the bags, ammonium nitrate, is especially sensitive to moisture, and could be igniting in the event of a crash, resulting in an “explosion” rather than a mere deployment.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Scarred woman sues airbag company, Oct. 24, 2014, Staff Report, WSVN 7 News, Miami-Dade/Fort Lauderdale
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