More Airbags Are Being Investigated For Failure

Many people around the US are familiar with the Takata airbag scandal that started in 2013 and continues to this day. It is, for now, the most comprehensive product recall in US automotive history, and an example of a defective product that, if left unaddressed, can lead to personal injury through no fault of the users. Now, in 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a Federal agency, is on the verge of conducting a new investigation that may eclipse the severity of the Takata airbag scandal; and it still involves airbags.

From Explosions To No Reaction At All

The Takata airbag scandal was caused by equipment that operated in dangerous, unanticipated ways. At the heart of the scandal, the Takata Corporation, a Japanese company, was found to have created an airbag deployment system that, under certain circumstances, burst incorrectly, literally with explosive results. It was found that some Takata airbags, when they deployed in accidents, were like fragmentation grenades, literally exploding shrapnel into drivers and passengers, rather than protecting them by safely deploying an airbag to cushion their impact. Some people died as a result of this product defect, resulting in a recall in 2013 that is still in effect to this day for cars of certain makes and models.

Now, however, there is a new concern with airbags, only this isn’t coming from a Japanese company, but a German one. ZF-TRW is a German auto-parts company, and it is now coming to light that the airbags created by this company may have the opposite problem. Preliminary research indicates that while the airbags are safe when deployed, they may not be deploying at all. A product defect has been found where, depending on the impact, an auto accident may cause electrical interference that causes the airbag electronics to not sense that an impact has occurred, and so the airbags don’t deploy.

The NHTSA already suspects that the death toll as a result of this defect may already be at eight and rising. The biggest risk is that ZF-TRW has installed this malfunctioning airbag system in many makes and models of car.

Many Cars On The Road

The biggest issue with the new investigation is the sheer number of vehicles that may be affected. ZF-TRW has provided airbags for Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Honda, and Fiat Chrysler. The NHTSA is now speculating that as many as 12.3 million vehicles on US roads could be affected by this discovery.

This is not something that NHTSA entered into lightly or impulsively. The first death is suspected of having occurred three years ago, and it was only last year that a preliminary evaluation was conducted by the NHTSA to examine airbag in question and look further into the practices of ZF-TRW in Germany.

Connections were established between ZF-TRW and Hyundai and Kia vehicles that did not deploy their airbags in frontal collisions. It was only in April this year that the NHTSA upgraded their preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis. That was brought on by two more serious crashes, one involving a fatality, but both involving Toyota Corollas.

Defective Products Are Illegal

While a defective product that causes harm isn’t a criminal act, that doesn’t mean that it is a legal one. All product manufacturers have a basic legal responsibility to ensure that their products—when used as recommended—are safe for customers. When a product fails to operate as intended, and this causes an injury that is no fault of the user, that injury from a defective product is eligible for financial compensation from the product manufacturer.

In this case, as the NHTSA conducts its analysis and investigation, it means that a case is building towards ZF-TRW and, potentially, the car manufacturers that chose to work with them. People who have been injured, or even killed as a result of this product failure can go to lawyers to discuss a personal injury lawsuit based on a defective product. If a large group of people is involved, this may even result in a class action lawsuit, which is essentially an “alliance” of wronged customers that are collectively, simultaneously taking the liable party to court.

Waiting For More Information

If you’re concerned about whether your car may be on the affected list, you’re not the only one. The defective airbag control unit has been in use for many years, even today. It is found in vehicles as old as 2010 but is also in the latest 2019 models.

The NHTSA has released a preliminary document outlining their early efforts. More information will be made available about the specific makes and models of vehicles as the engineering analysis intensifies, and more information from the involved companies is revealed. However, if you find yourself already in an accident where the airbag failed to deploy, whether you were at fault or not in that accident, your airbag should have deployed. If you are an affected party of this defective product, get help.


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