The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging consumers to check for open recalls related to faulty airbags after the deaths of 24 people.
“It turns a normal, survivable-type crash into something out of a horror scene,” said Andrew Parker Felix, an attorney.
Felix shared a photo with NBC 6 showing the bloody aftermath of what he says was a minor December 2020 crash that was life-changing for his client, Jose Hernandez.
“He had essentially the entire air bag inflator removed from his right arm at the hospital,” Felix said. “The wound is so gaping and so large, that he ends up having to have skin grafts once it closed.”
Felix also shared a video taken at the hospital showing the piece of metal that was removed from Hernandez’s arm. He said his client did not know his 2005 Honda Civic had an open recall for the airbag that was issued years before the crash.
“The average person who’s going about their day isn’t focused on exploding airbags,” he said. “In fact, you’re not even thinking about an airbag until you need it.”
NHTSA told NBC 6 in November that there were anywhere between 10 and 12 million vehicles still out there with active recalls involving faulty Takata inflators. That same month the agency said someone driving a 2006 Ford Ranger — which was under a “do not drive” warning — was killed. Earlier in December, there was another death involving a ruptured airbag inflator in a 2002 Honda Accord.
The agency also says at least 400 people in the United States have allegedly been injured by exploding Takata airbag inflators.
“This is an airbag that shoots metal at you,” Felix said. “Like a grenade, like an explosive device.”
Felix said they opted out of the award given to Hernandez by the Takata Airbag Tort Compensation Trust Fund and decided to take their fight to court instead, filing a lawsuit in December against the fund and others. They also hope to raise awareness of the potential danger that could be lurking inside millions of cars.
“It’s something you would expect to see in a Hollywood horror film,” Felix said. “Not in South Florida when you’re expecting a device that you paid money for to protect you.”
While Honda is not a party to Hernandez’s lawsuit, a spokesperson sent NBC 6 a statement, saying in part:
“Honda sincerely sympathizes with all those injured or killed by defective Takata airbag inflators and believes that they and their families should be quickly and fairly compensated for their losses. That is why Honda and members of the Plaintiffs’ attorney bar jointly supported the creation of the Takata Airbag Tort Compensation Trust. The Trust was established by the bankruptcy court in connection with the Takata bankruptcy proceedings. The Trust provides an independent and efficient process to fully, fairly, and reasonably compensate those individuals injured by defective Takata airbag inflators as swiftly as possible. If a claimant is dissatisfied with his or her Trust award, the claimant may pursue relief in court against the Trust.”
Meanwhile, a trustee of the fund said in an email, “This tragic case is a tangible reminder that car owners need to get these recalled airbag inflators out of their cars without delay.”
NHTSA is urging people, especially in South Florida, to check for open recalls related to these airbags.
“We know that there are still about 100,000 unrepaired vehicles in the Miami area with Takata inflators,” Stephen Ridella, director of NHTSA’S Office of Defect Investigations, told NBC 6 in November. “Since you’re in what we consider the most hot and humid climate for the degradation process to be faster, those are a lot of very, potentially dangerous vehicles that are in the Miami area.”
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