Injuries Caused by Defective Airbags in Auto Accidents

May 15, 2016

Injuries Caused by Defective Airbags in Auto Accidents

The Takata airbag recalls started in 2014. Reports that the airbags were improperly deploying, sending shrapnel into the cabin of the car, and injuring drivers and passengers began to steadily circulate through the news. In November of 2014, The New York Times published a report claiming Takata knew about the issues with their airbags long before the recalls and beginning to work with federal authorities.

Two years later and the injury and death count related to the airbags’ inflators has grown and vehicles are still being added to the recall list.

If you or a loved one were injured by a defective airbag, you should contact the Charlotte auto accident lawyer at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. right away.

History of the Takata Recall Expansion

By early 2015, numerous vehicle manufacturers that used Takata airbags recalled various models and then expanded those recalls. Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Ford, General motors and other manufacturers had all issues recalls. Honda and Toyota expanded recalls that summer.

Meanwhile U.S. authorities were looking into the issue. Takata was fined $14,000 each day it did not fully cooperate with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into what was causing the airbags to explode and injure drivers.

Throughout 2015, nine drivers’ deaths were linked to Takata’s exploding airbags. Major vehicle manufacturers and the NHTSA continued to expand recalls and reach out to consumers regarding having the airbag inflators in their vehicles replaced.

The 10th U.S. death linked to the airbags occurred in April 2016. There have been more than 100 injuries reported. The same month U.S. regulators announced there were 85 million potentially defective airbags around the world that had not been recalled.

Last month, the NHTSA announced another recall expansion in addition to the previous 28.8 million recalled airbags. The newest announcement states Takata is required to either prove the airbag inflators in these other vehicles are safe or they all need to be recalled.

What Causes the Explosions?

Takata’s airbags use ammonium nitrate-based propellant in a metal cartridge, however, it does not include a chemical drying agent. When the environment becomes too hot or too moist, the bags can suddenly and forcefully inflate, sending metal and plastic shrapnel into the car.

It is not surprising that Hawaii is the first state to file a lawsuit against Takata for allegedly covering up facts regarding their dangerous airbags. The state is concerned that its residents are at a particularly high risk of danger from the airbags because of the region’s climate.

Injuries From Exploding Airbags

Facial and neck injuries are the most common outcome of an improperly deployed Takata airbag. The force by which the shrapnel is sent into the cabin is high enough to pierce a person’s skin. The shrapnel can cause significant lacerations that require stitches to heal and leave permanent scarring.

More than one victim died because of being “stabbed” in the neck with pieces of metal or plastic from the explosion. In many of these situations, the victim was in a minor car accident that would rarely have led to death or even serious injuries.

Multiple victims of the airbags have had their eyesight permanently damaged or lost entirely in one eye because of the shrapnel.

Additionally, many of the surviving victims lost a significant amount of blood during the accidents, and suffered strokes or traumatic brain injuries.

Some passengers escaped the incidents with mild injuries, but more than 100 drivers are living with disabilities, disfigurements, and long-term effects of the explosion.

A Personal Injury Claim

If you were injured in a car accident or were injured by a defective airbag, you have the right to legally hold the person at fault responsible for your injuries. In most cases, your personal injury claim states that the party at fault was negligent, though it can also allege the other party acted intentionally or is responsible because of strict liability. Negligence is when an individual or business fails to uphold their duty of reasonable care.  If it was another person’s or company’s lack of care or concern for others that was the cause of your injuries, you can file a lawsuit.

When people are injured in an auto accident, they generally work with an insurance company to recover first. However, negotiations with insurance companies fail for multiple reasons. Sometimes insurance companies do not believe their client to be at fault or they deny your claim on some procedural basis. You might also not settle with an insurance company if their policy limit is less than what you truly need to recover.

If you have been injured and need to work with someone else’s insurance company, you should contact an attorney right away. A personal injury lawyer will have experience filing third-party claims with insurers and appealing denied claims when necessary. Not only will your lawyer have experience negotiating for higher settlements, they will also understand North Carolina insurance law. Your attorney will notice if you are not being treated fairly.

If you are unable to negotiate an advantageous settlement with an insurer, your attorney will advise you on process of filing a lawsuit.

The Process of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you decide to file a lawsuit against a vehicle or airbag manufacturer because of your injuries, you need to understand the timeline of a typical personal injury suit.

First, your lawyer will write and file a formal complaint with the courts. You will then serve the defendants notice of the suit. This formally notifies them of your claim and allows them time to respond.

Next, you will go through the process called discovery, where each side has the ability to ask each other questions and request the exchange of certain documents or evidence. This helps you gather the evidence you need to support your claims of negligence.

It can take more than year to finally arrive at trial and many things can have happened between filing the suit and trial. Your lawyer and the opposing side may have filed various motions, such as a motion to dismiss, to try and resolve certain issues in the case or to have the entire lawsuit dismissed.

Before trial begins, your lawyer and the attorneys for the other side will go through jury selection. Once a jury is chosen, each side will have the chance to give their opening arguments. Following that, each side presents its evidence and witness testimony. Last, your attorney and the defendant’s lawyers will give closing statements. The jury then receives its instructions and it deliberates until it comes to a verdict.

At any time before a final verdict or judgement, you and the opposing side can settle the case.  

Contact a Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer

If you were injured by a defective airbag or in a defective vehicle, call the lawyers at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A.. Our dedicated Charlotte NC car crash attorneys provide client-focused service. They will get to know you and the nuances of your case to ensure to ensure you have comprehensive legal representation.