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Dangerous Airbags in 52 Million Cars Said to Pose Accident, Injury Risk

Some 52 million cars in Colorado and around the world are at risk of exploding, causing serious and even fatal injuries, according to federal safety officials.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is on the verge of officially recalling the airbags, The New York Times reports. The defective safety devices are currently installed in vehicles produced by at least a dozen major auto manufacturers.

A total of seven people have been injured and another person killed in accidents related to the faulty airbags, NHTSA said in a public notice. 

The agency in September made an initial determination that airbag inflators produced by ARC Automotive Inc. and Delphi Automotive Systems through January 2018 are defective. It said the inflators could explode, posing a serious safety risk to anyone inside vehicles and on the road with them.

“These airbag inflators may rupture when the vehicle’s airbag is commanded to deploy, causing metal debris to be forcefully ejected into the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” NHTSA said in a public notice announcing the meeting. “A rupturing air bag inflator poses an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death to vehicle occupants.”

Global automakers who use the airbags in their cars include BMW, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen, the Times reports.

ARC manufactured about 79 percent of the 52 million airbags expected to be included in the recall. The devices – and those from Delphi – were produced in China, Mexico and Knoxville, Tenn. over the course of two decades from 2000 to 2018.

The fatal accident happened in Michigan in August 2021, NHTSA said. A person driving a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse was killed when the airbag in the vehicle ruptured and exploded. NHTSA said the car’s previous airbag deployed without issue when the vehicle was involved in a previous crash.

The other documented accidents range from a 2009 incident in Ohio in which a driver was seriously injured and a March 2023 incident in Michigan in which a driver sustained face injuries.

Shades of Takata

Airbags are vital safety tools that help keep people safe when traffic collisions happen. They have saved roughly 50,000 lives over the last 30 years, NHTSA estimates.

But this is not the first time that the devices have had to be recalled because of serious safety risks.

NHTSA’s latest move appears to stem from a similar defect that sparked a massive recall of airbags produced by Japanese manufacturer Takata. 

Some 100 million malfunctioning Takata airbags have been recalled around the world in the last 10 years. The recall is the largest by far on record in the U.S.

At least 25 people have been killed as a result of the defective airbags. The problem began to catch public attention in 2009 after an Oklahoma teen behind the wheel of a Honda Accord died when the driver-side airbag in her car exploded, shooting metal fragments into her neck.

Takata eventually paid $1 billion to settle a Justice Department probe into claims that it failed to warn consumers of the problem. The company later filed for bankruptcy and was sold.

Nearly 10 years later, however, vehicles with the defective airbags are still lurking on roads and used car dealership lots across the country. Millions of the defective airbags have not been fixed in the U.S. alone, according to data from NHTSA. 

Last year alone, two people reportedly died in separate crashes where the Takata driver’s-side airbag in 2010 Dodge Chargers exploded. That prompted NHTSA and manufacturer Stellantis to tell Charger owners to stop driving the cars until the airbags are removed and replaced.

Know Before You Buy: Has Your Car Been Recalled?

The airbag recall highlights a larger problem for car owners in Colorado and beyond. 

Major car manufacturers struggle to ensure that their vehicles are actually safe to drive.

Carmakers recall millions of vehicles around the globe every single year, citing a wide range of defects and malfunctions that increase accident and injury risks. These recalls commonly come long after the dangerous vehicles have left factory floors and dealership lots, sold to unsuspecting buyers.

If that is not enough reason to be worried, there is more. Used car dealers are generally not required to disclose that the vehicles they are selling are subject to open recalls. 

Some 40% of used cars being offered for sale across the country are covered by at least one open recall that has not been addressed, according to research from Consumers’ Checkbook and the Consumer Federation of America. 

In other words, the responsibility is on car buyers to check whether a particular vehicle has been recalled – and, if so, whether it has been brought in and fixed – before making a purchase. Get the car’s Vehicle Identification Number in person and plug it into NHTSA’s website to get this vital information.

Legal Rights for People Injured in Car Crashes

There is some good news for people who are injured in Colorado car accidents

You have the right to seek compensation for your injuries from those responsible for the collision. That includes carmakers who put defective vehicles on the road.

The monetary damages available in these cases are meant to help an injured person get back into the financial position that he or she was in before the crash. It includes money for doctors’ bills, vehicle damage, missed wages, and other impacts of the injuries.

Speak with a Denver Car Accident Lawyer 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a hit and run or other crash in Colorado, a Denver car accident lawyer at Levine Law can help you take action. Our attorneys combine decades of experience and a strong track record of success in the courtroom and through negotiated settlements.

We are pleased to serve clients throughout Colorado, including in Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins and Loveland. Call us at 303-333-8000 or contact us online to speak with a Denver car accident lawyer.

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