Joel Knight, a 52-year-old welder of South Carolina, was injured by the shrapnel from the Ford Ranger airbag, which punctured his neck with so much force that investigators initially thought a fatal shooting had occurred. Mr. Knight hit a stray cow while he was driving on a South Carolina highway. A metal chunk hurtled out from his ruptured airbag and punched a one-inch hole in his neck, breaking his vertebra. He also had wounds on his right arm which show that he tried to brace himself from the airbag before he died. Mr. Knight bled to death, not ever knowing that the airbag in his truck had posed a risk.
His airbag had been manufactured by Takata, the Japanese supplier whose faulty airbags have been linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Unfortunately, Mr. Knight was not aware that the airbag had been recalled.
Tens of millions of people drive vehicles that may pose a lethal danger but have not been repaired or, as in Mr. Knight’s case, have not even been recalled. Since 2000, Takata has sold as many as 54 million metal “inflaters” in the United States containing ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound that regulators believe is at the center of the problem, according to an estimate by Valient Market Research and provided to The New York Times. About 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles have been recalled. Of the 28 million recalled inflaters, only about 30 percent have been repaired. The rest of the inflaters, about 26 million, have not been recalled.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stepped up its scrutiny of the problem, after a series of missteps over nearly a decade, but has stopped short of an immediate recall of all Takata airbags containing the compound. The safety agency, which has barred Takata from using ammonium nitrate for new orders, has given the supplier until the end of 2018 to prove that ammonium nitrate is safe in existing airbags. And Takata has even longer, until the end of 2019, to show that inflaters with a more advanced version of the compound are safe.
Swartz & Swartz, P.C. has assisted many families over the years whose lives have been tragically and forever altered as the result of a significant personal injury or wrongful death due to a car accident or automobile defect. If you would like to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney at Swartz & Swartz, P.C., please contact us. You can call us at (617) 742-1900, or if you are outside the Boston area, call toll-free at 1-800-545-3732.