Just two weeks ago, a Fort Lauderdale man broke his jaw when the Takata airbag console in his 2001 Honda Accord literally exploded, detached from the steering wheel, and struck him in the face. My law firm has been retained to represent the victim.
For nearly 2 years, I have been advocating for a complete wipeout of all 2001-2004 Honda Civics and Honda Accords from operation unless their airbags are replaced. It is mind-boggling that we have not done so yet. A significant majority of the injury and death claims were in these vehicles, yet claims continue to come in.
Honda and Takata have access to many vehicle owners. Florida, for example, keeps a database. A simple request could provide Honda and Takata with the name and address of the vehicle registrants. They claim to mail notice letters, but those notice letters could get lost in the mail or inadvertently thrown out with other spam mail. In fact, many vehicle owners claimed to first receive a recall notice after their accident.
If a company puts a potentially deadly product in your car and knows it must be replaced or could kill or injure you, I don’t think a tv ad or mailing a letter is enough. At this point, I think it is prudent to take all affected vehicles off the road until they are deemed safe.
There is no reason Honda or Takata can’t start knocking on the doors of vehicle owners or try to find the affected vehicles and maybe put a giant red sticker on the window if they can, something apparent to let the operator know the vehicle is unsafe.
We already have laws in many states requiring vehicles to have a certain level of safety in order for it to be permitted to operate on our public roads. Look at these photos. Read the reports of injuries and death. At what point will we say enough is enough and make it unlawful to drive a vehicle with a recalled airbag. The operator is not just putting himself or herself in danger, but every occupant in their car.
I think it is time for an independent study to be sanctioned to see which vehicles are most susceptible to airbag rupture and make those a priority to get fixed or off the roads. Let’s stop focusing on geographic areas. Cars travel. Location may not be the best indicator. When we look at the vehicles, my suspicion is that a large percentage of airbag ruptures come from 2001-2004 Honda Civics and Accords. If so, I think we need to get everyone of these vehicles off the roads to prevent more people from getting hurt or killed.
How Do We Prevent Future Airbag Ruptures?
Over the last 2 years, I’ve been developing an airbag system capable of inspection prior to an accident. Imagine getting your oil changed and having your airbag inspected at the same time.
Many ruptured airbags we’ve seen showed signs of defect or post installation changes which could have been detected prior to the accident. For example, the canisters are often metal. If not adequately treated, or over time, the metal may rust. This rust may impact the integrity of the canister.
When moisture gets into the canister, it can contact the explosive. That contact can cause the explosive tablet to increase in size and push against the metal canister. Over time, the outside of the metal canister may show signs of expansion and could change size, almost like stretching the metal.
I think it is also time to mandate routine airbag inspections beyond just confirming that there is an airbag or that the airbag light is not on. Many major airbag components are already routinely inspected. Brake pads are inspected and repaired, tires are rotated and changed, oil is changed, belts get replaced, engines get serviced, and other parts get checked.
Will We Ever Have A Total Recall?
Some media have reported on the possibility of a total Takata airbag recall. The more Takata fights these airbag injury and warranty claims, the longer it may take to come to a solution.