2014 been a record breaking year for automakers. Unfortunately for them, and even more so for drivers, the record that has been set is not one that anyone had hoped to set – over 50 million vehicles have been recalled this year for defects. That’s more than three times as many vehicles sold in the United States in 2013, and means more than one in five cars and trucks is at risk of a potentially deadly defect. The most recent recall is of approximately 7.8 million Hondas, Toyotas, Chryslers, Dodges, BMWs, and other cars for defective airbags.
The defect? The airbag inflators can rupture and blast out metal shards when deployed, resulting in at least 2 death and dozens of injuries. And that 7.8 million is likely low — the manufacturer, Takata Corp., has only recommended that automakers issue recalls in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, prompting two U.S. Senators to demand that regulators issue a nationwide recall of cars with the faulty airbags. The number of affected vehicles is likely closer to 20 million. To date the cause of the problem has not been identified, with Takata and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigating the effects of “prolonged absolute humidity,” a measure of the moisture content in the air, on chemicals that propel the air bags in a crash, and whether that is causing the chemicals to explode with too much force, fracturing metal parts and sending them into the air on deployment.
The seriousness of the danger posed by the defect has even caused the NHTSA issue a warning to the owners of the almost 8 million recalled vehicles to get them repaired as soon as possible. However, the NHTSA has previously found that nearly one-third of all recall notices mailed to vehicle owners are ignored. Leaving those drivers and their passengers at risk for serious injury. And the high number of recalls this year has drawn attention to the reality that most automakers are unprepared to handle large recalls. Honda has already stated it lacks the parts to immediately fix the more than 5 million Accords, Civics, Odysseys and other models that are at risk of defective airbags. Toyota’s temporary solution is to disable the air bags and attach notes on the glove box warning against riding in the passenger seat. The incompetence would be funny if it did not put countless innocent lives in danger.
With 544 announced recalls so far this year, it may be easy for car owners to become complacent or desensitized to new recall announcements. But the danger posed by defective parts and equipment make it vitally important for car owners to be vigilant in determining whether their vehicle is affected by a recall. To see if your car is affected by this recall or any others that have been issued, the NHTSA has set up the website safercar.gov, where drivers can put in the year, make, and model of their car and get a quick snapshot of all the recalls that may be applicable to their vehicle.
As personal injury attorneys who serve Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, the attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, and Siegel, P.C. have spent decades fighting to hold companies accountable for the defective and potentially deadly products that they release to the public. Our personal injury attorneys handle product liability and product defect cases of all kinds. If you believe that you or someone you love may been hurt by a defective vehicle, defective product, or someone’s negligent conduct, please call the attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, and Siegel, P.C.