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Tenth Takata airbag death leads to expanded recall

One of biggest automobile safety problems affecting drivers in California and elsewhere is becoming bigger. Much has already been written about the car accidents caused by allegedly defective airbags manufactured by Takata Corporation. Now, federal regulators are blaming a tenth death on the defect and citing the death as justification for an expansion of the nationwide recall program.

The death in question occurred in December when an airbag in a Ford Ranger exploded, killing the driver. The death was announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In a second and more significant announcement, the NHTSA said that it was expanding the recall of Takata airbags. By extending the recall to Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, two manufacturers who have not be previously included, the NHTSA investigation now includes another 5 million cars, for a total of 19 million vehicles subject to the recall. According to the NHTSA, only 27.3 percent of recalled driver’s side airbags and 25.8 percent of passenger’s side bags have been replaced.

The exact nature of the defect has not been identified, but investigators believe that it is related to ammonium nitrate, which is used as a propellant to inflate the airbag in the event of an accident. According to engineering results to date, the passage of time or high humidity can cause ammonium nitrate to deteriorate; instead of expanding at a specified rate, the inflating cylinder explodes violently, sending shards of steel into the front seat occupants, causing serious injury and death.

Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an accident attributed to an exploding airbag may wish to consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in such cases. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a helpful analysis of the facts of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for lost income, medical expenses, lost companionship and pain and suffering.

Source: New York Times, “Takata Airbag Flaw Linked to 10th Death; 5 Million More Vehicles Recalled,” Hiroko Tabuchi and Danielle Ivory, Jan. 22, 2016

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