Takata Airbag Defect Leads to Senate Hearing

Investigative Senate Hearing Reviews Takata Airbag Defect

Takata Airbag DefectA Senate hearing convened to investigate numerous vehicle recalls related to Takata airbag defect, which date back as far as 2008.

On Thursday, November 20th, a senior executive with Takata testified that a Takata airbag defect leads to corrosion of an inflator mechanism that can cause the airbags to explode and embed shrapnel into the driver or passengers. At least five deaths worldwide, including three in the US, and dozens of personal injuries have been linked to the Takata airbag defect.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to all those who have suffered in these accidents and to their families,” Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata’s senior vice president for global quality assurance, told the Senate Commerce Committee.

However, when senators asked questions regarding the safety of the airbags, they received halting answers and evasion. For example, Mr. Shimizu refused to answer if the company supported expanding the Takata airbag defect recall.

“It is hard for me to answer yes or no,” Mr. Shimizu said.

“It is not hard for you to answer yes or no,” said Edward J. Markey, D-Mass, cutting him off.

Senators also pressed Mr. Shimizu for information about exploding airbag tests dating back to 2004. Two former Takata employees said the company carried out airbag tests in 2004 after reports about an airbag rupture, and found signs of problems in the airbag design, but did not report the information to safety regulators until 2005. Reportedly, a chemical in the propellant could degrade the inflators when moisture from air gets in.

Victims of the exploding Takata airbag defect also testified at the Senate hearing, including Stephanie Erdman, an Air Force officer, who crashed her 2002 Honda Civic last year. Shrapnel from the failed airbags shot through the cloth and into her right eye and neck.

“I was instantly blind on my right side, and then I felt gushing blood,” she said. “Since then, I have endured multiple surgeries and therapy — I have more of them to go,” she added. “My vision will never be the same. I will never be the same.”

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an urgent safety recall notice involving Takata airbags, which covers numerous manufacturers including Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and BMW. That and the Senate hearing are departures from how US safety regulators normally handle vehicle and safety recalls, involving vehicle manufacturers.

“How can you justify calling for a mandatory nationwide recall with Takata driver’s-side airbags while continuing to allow a patchwork of voluntary or regional recalls for the passenger-side airbags?” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, asked David Friedman of the NHTSA.

“Analysts say that even if NHTSA’s additional recalls are implemented, Takata has ample cash reserves and won’t be at immediate financial risk. But they also say it is hard to quantify potentially bigger risks, such as costs stemming from class-action suits, damage to Takata’s reputation or the possibility of yet more recalls.”

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Personal Injury and Takata Airbag Defects

If a Takata airbag defect in your vehicle caused a car accident, you may not know immediately what recourse you have. Although the law is complicated, you do have legal recourse against the vehicle’s manufacturer. It is important for manufacturers to pay attention to the quality of their products and issue vehicle recall notices in a timely fashion – however, not all automobile manufacturers will do so, and consumers can be seriously injured or killed.

If you have experienced a problem with a defective product in your automobile, especially if a defective part has led to an auto accident or personal injury, and a proper vehicle recall notice has not been issued, you may be entitled to compensation. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. We can help you with complicated auto insurance claims, and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve to help you with lost income and medical bills. Our attorneys are licensed to practice in South Carolina, Georgia, and New York. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so contact us today at (803) 252-4800.

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