Takata Airbag Scandal Could See Billion Dollar Settlement


The Law Of... airbag safety

The legal battle surrounding the Takata airbag scandal could be nearing a conclusion, as reports claim that the car parts manufacturer could pay up to a $1 billion financial penalty and accept criminal charges for its part in one of the largest car recalls in history.

Takata Airbag Scandal Could See Billion Dollar Settlement

Defective Takata airbags, which were linked to deaths around the world, caused an automotive recall that affected a dozen high-profile car manufacturers and included over 100 million cars worldwide.

Responding to the latest developments, Rose Gibson – Partner in Complex Personal Injury – explains why the evidence is stacked against Takata and how the settlement could spell the end for the troubled part manufacturer.

Defective Airbags

The defect in Takata airbags is caused by the chemical used to inflate the airbag after a crash. The company used ammonium nitrate in its inflator, a chemical other airbag manufacturers have avoided due to the likelihood that it will deteriorate after exposure to moisture and extreme temperatures.

As the chemical deteriorates, it becomes volatile and can cause airbags to inflate with too much force; in some case Takata airbags have inflated with such force that it caused metal fragments to be propelled into drivers, causing hundreds of injuries, some of which were fatal.

Despite initially being slow to react to safety concerns reported in their airbags, Takata eventually announced a small product recall for some affected airbags.

As the full scale of the damage that could be caused by the defective airbags became clear, individual car manufacturers that used Takata's airbags began implementing their own recalls.

Most recently, Toyota extended recalls of their cars using Takata's unsafe airbags by 5.8 million – this pushed the number of models recalled by the world's largest car manufacturer because of the defect to 23.1 million.

In total, it is thought that over 100 million cars have been recalled around the world because of Takata's defective airbags – worryingly, it is thought that it will take at least three years for Takata and other airbag manufacturers to make enough products to replace all of the defective parts.

Financial Penalty & Criminal Misconduct

While the recall itself is still ongoing – in the US it is thought that less than 20% of the defective airbags have been replaced – the saga's criminal case could be coming to an end.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Takata is close to settling the US criminal probe into the defective airbags.

It is expected that Takata will plead guilty to criminal misconduct and will have to pay a financial penalty of up to $1 billion.

Reports are also claiming that prosecutors at the Justice Department may bring charges of wire fraud against Takata, as it has been claimed that the company faked safety test reports and intentionally buried evidence of their dangerous airbags.

Responding to the latest developments in the Takata airbag scandal, Rose said:

"While the US legal case may be coming to an end, I remain very worried about the tens of millions of cars – around the world – that still hold a potentially life threatening airbag."

"The full details of the saga are distressing; especially when one considers that this errant attitude to product safety came from a company that solely produces safety parts for a large number of car manufacturers."

"It is concerning that drivers in the US that are taking their cars to garages to receive a safe replacement product are being told that there are not enough parts to fulfil the recall, meaning that there are a huge amount of drivers that are at risk of suffering a serious injury from this vehicle defect."

"As Takata have admitted liability for this defective product – and are likely to plead guilty to criminal misconduct – compensation should be granted to drivers who suffer an injury due to the company's negligence without delay."

"While this compensation may assist with an injured driver's rehabilitation, it is unlikely to make up for the deep psychological trauma and loss of amenity caused by a defective airbag spraying metal fragments around a car."

"In the UK, it is thought that one million cars have been issued with recall notices and I implore any owners of affected models to follow their recall instructions as a point of high priority."

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