Virtually every car manufactured nowadays comes equipped with an air bag; however, that hasn’t always been the case. While some auto manufacturers started installing front impact airbags in their vehicles as early as 1990, by 1995, they were a standard feature on automobiles, and in September 1997, it became a mandate that all newly manufactured passenger cars come equipped with these safety devices.
As you read just a second ago, we referred to air bags as safety devices. They were initially created to protect passenger car occupants if they were involved in front-end crashes and later even side-impact ones once vehicles started being equipped with side air bags.
The issue with air bags is that there have been some significant issues with them since they were first introduced on the market. As one example, this past May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requested that air bag inflator manufacturer ARC Automotive, Inc. recall more than 30 million of its units previously installed on U.S. vehicles.
Read on to learn more about some of the biggest air bag-related recalls in recent history and how they differ from this latest ARC Automotive one. Also, find out how to tell if your vehicle has one of the defective air bags and what to do if so.
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What To Know About the Latest Pending ARC Air Bag Recall
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested that the air bag inflator manufacturer ARC Automotive recall its device equipped on 67 million vehicles in the U.S. and Canada alone. According to news reports regarding the matter, the federal agency gave the auto parts company until June 13, 2023 to answer its questions about its device and comply, or else face hefty fines and potential other penalties.
ARC Automotive has so far refused to issue a recall on the grounds that any issues with their air bag components that have resulted in multiple past smaller recalls (including one of at least 1 million General Motors vehicles) were done to address isolated manufacturing issues. The auto parts manufacturer contends that at least nine prior reports of injuries or deaths associated with their air bags exploding and sending metal pieces in the air haven’t been proven attributable to their product’s defect.
What To Know About the Takata Air Bag Recall
The Takata air bag recall occurred in early 2021. With 67 million vehicles affected worldwide, the Takata air bag recall was similar in size to this latest ARC Automotive inflator recall.
As for the recall, it was issued after numerous motorists were hurt or killed when their air bags exploded upon deployment. The brands affected by the Takata air bag recall included:
- General Motors
- Chrysler Daimler
- Many more car brands
In fact, there weren’t many makes and models that didn’t make it on the list, according to this list of vehicles affected by the Takata air bag recall list posted by the NHTSA.
In the end, 34,400 plaintiffs joined the class action lawsuit against air bag manufacturer Takata claiming the product caused them to suffer injuries or lose a loved one. There was a $52 million overall settlement.
How Do the Causes of ARC and Takata Air Bag Defects Compare?
In the case of the ARC air bags, NHTSA investigators have determined that it’s likely that welding residue permeated into the vents on the inflators, causing a slower-than-usual inflation rate and subsequent pressure build-up, resulting in an explosive blowout. Other theories about the causes of these explosions center around the use of ammonium nitrate as a secondary source for inflation. Some analysts suggest that this chemical mix has an adverse reaction when exposed to humidity or hot temperatures, resulting in a sizable explosion.
Air bag inflators once produced by the Japanese manufacturer Takata Corporation also contained ammonium nitrate that was similarly housed in a metal canister within the overall air bag assembly. The many reports of injuries and deaths tied to Takata air bags are eerily similar to the ARC Automotive reports. The only difference in the inflation process involving the ARC and Takata airbags was that the latter used ammonium nitrate as its primary inflation medium as opposed to its secondary one.
How Can You Tell if Your Vehicle Is Equipped With a Defective Air Bag?
Now that you’ve heard about two of perhaps the biggest recalls (or soon-to-be-ones) in recent history, you may wonder what steps you can take to identify whether your vehicle has one of these dangerous ARC air bags installed in it. Follow these steps:
- Check your vehicle owner’s manual to see if it lists the third-party manufacturers of your vehicle’s different parts. If so, look to see who it lists as having manufactured its air bag components.
- If searching the owner’s manual doesn’t prove fruitful, consider looking for your auto manufacturer’s phone number and calling them to see if they can tell you who made the different parts of your air bag.
- One other option you can take is to visit the NHTSA Safety Issues & Recalls tool, where you can type in your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if there have been any car, tire, equipment, and other types of recalls issues related to vehicles or their parts.
You should note that recalls generally aren’t issued by the NHTSA until they receive a number of similar reports of safety issues that have inflicted harm upon others. In many cases, there have been a significant number of serious injuries or deaths that have occurred before recalls like these are announced.
What Should You Do if You Determine Your Vehicle Contains a Defective or Recalled Air Bag?
If in the process of reading your owner’s manual, calling the automaker, or researching your vehicle’s VIN number on the NHTSA’s website, you find that it contains defective air bag components (or any other known dangerous auto part), you should immediately take it to the mechanic for repairs. Having it towed there may actually be in your best interest to avoid any issues that could arise on your way there.
However, if you’ve had the misfortune of having already been involved in an auto accident or other incident in which your air bag unexpectedly deployed, exploded, or otherwise functioned differently from the way it should have, discontinue use of that vehicle and consult with an attorney.
Any ARC air bag inflator lawyer here at Thomas Law Offices will have experience handling cases like these in which someone got hurt or prematurely lost a relative in a completely avoidable dangerous and defective product case. Your initial consultation with legal counsel is free, and it’s important to act expeditiously to preserve necessary evidence in your case, so reach out to our law office to discuss your predicament now.