About Our Mass Tort and Product Defect PracticeIn the area of personal injury law, there are two special, related categories of large, high-profile cases referred to as “mass tort” or “product defect” cases. These cases involve investigating and litigating widespread harm caused by a single event or defective product, such as when an oil spill damages hundreds of miles of coastline or a defective auto part was installed in millions of vehicles. Over the years, Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in a wide range of personal injury matters, especially motor vehicle accidents. Recently, we have begun reaching out to potential clients harmed by using Roundup, a weed killer made by the giant Monsanto corporation. Now, we are seeking to represent victims of malfunctioning airbags, too. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA's clients not only receive excellent representation but also get the personal attention they deserve. We have the resources and know-how of law firms three times our size—the sort of firms the big corporations hire to defend themselves—but we also treat our clients in a way that makes them feel like they are part of a close-knit “family.” Over the years, our high-profile legal work has earned us industry awards and recognition, but we are most proud of the praise we receive from our clients who appreciate our responsiveness and attention to their individual needs.
Overview of Takata and ZF-TRW Airbag ProblemsAirbags are supposed to keep drivers and passengers safe in collisions. Unfortunately, since 2000, waves of concern have grown about whether these devices pose extreme danger to the very people they're supposed to protect. Here is an overview of the issues surrounding airbag-related components made by manufacturers Takata and ZF-TRW.
Some Takata Airbags May Deploy With Explosive ForceAccording to Consumer Reports, the NHTSA's recall of Takata airbags is the largest automotive recall in U.S. history. It affects 41.6 million vehicles made by 19 different car manufacturers, mostly from model years 2002 to 2015. The recall focuses on an airbag component called an “inflator,” which as the name suggests is the mechanism that inflates an airbag when it's triggered by a collision. The Takata inflators subject to the recall sometimes deploy with explosive force that can injure or kill vehicle occupants and send shards of material flying through the car's passenger compartment. These defects have killed at least 16 persons in the United States, and injured more than 300 people worldwide. There is a long list of vehicles subject to the Takata recall. Some Honda, Acura, Ford, and Mazda models containing what are known as “Alpha” airbags pose such a high risk of explosive airbag deployment that NHTSA advises owners not to drive them under any circumstances until their airbag components are replaced. One of the most frightening aspects of the Takata airbag recall is that many cars subject to recall have not been fixed and are still on the road with defective Takata airbag inflators in them. Just last year, according to Consumer Reports, Honda reported that a driver who purchased a used 2002 Honda Civic died because of an explosive Takata inflator. Unfixed vehicles under recall in South Florida pose an especially high risk to drivers and passengers because, according to NHTSA, “long-term exposure to combined high heat and humidity” like the conditions in South Florida are what “creates the risk that a Takata airbag will explode.” At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we can help people recover damages after a Takata airbag failure, but we hope that if you have a defective airbag in your car you get it fixed before you are injured or worse. If you haven't checked already, we urge you to look up whether your car (or a car you're thinking of buying) is subject to the Takata airbag recall and, if it is, get the problem fixed right away. It is likely the fix will cost you little to nothing, and it could save your life.
Some ZF-TRW Airbag ACUs Send Faulty Signals, Causing The Airbag Not to Deploy in an AccidentThe emerging issue with ZF-TRW airbag ACUs is different from the issue with Takata airbags. Takata airbag inflators pose a risk of explosive deployment, but ZF-TRW airbags might not deploy at all because their ACUs fail to send appropriate electrical signals to trigger deployment in a crash. Although NHTSA has not (as of early June 2019) issued a recall of vehicles containing ZF-TRW airbags, many auto manufacturers have independently issued recalls for their own cars. According to the Associated Press, thus far the auto-makers Kia, Hyundai, and Fiat Chrysler have recalled their vehicles containing ZF-TRW airbags without waiting for NHTSA to issue a recall. Anyone who drives a 2010-2019 Toyota, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep (or other brands made by these companies) should not wait for a recall to have their vehicle's airbag ACU checked. Even if you have to pay to replace your ACU, you should do so if possible. Keep all of your documentation so that if a recall is issued and/or a legal settlement takes place, you can document your potential right to reimbursement.
How We Can HelpWe urge everyone reading this to take airbag defects seriously and to get their car checked out to make sure it does not have airbag components known to have proven or suspected defects. Unfortunately, we also know that there is no way to ensure every vehicle containing a defective Takata airbag inflator or a potentially defective ZF-TRW airbag ACU will be fixed. This means that there will be more people who are hurt or die in accidents involving these products. We may be able to help the victims when airbag-related tragedy strikes. Once we agree to take on a case, we may:
- Investigate the airbag malfunction to determine whether it is a known or suspected defect, or if its failure might point to a previously unknown problem. Not every lawyer has the know-how to carry out this kind of investigation, but we do. When necessary, we work with automotive experts to analyze evidence and produce reports that detail how and why an individual airbag failed.
- Advise our clients on whether and how to seek compensation from any existing settlement fund. Victims have filed “class action” lawsuits (in which a few victims bring claims on behalf of a large class of people “similarly situated” to them) over the Takata airbag failures and for some vehicle makes and models manufacturers have set aside large pools of money to compensate vehicle owners and others harmed by an airbag failure. Not every airbag-related injury qualifies for compensation under these class action settlements, however. Speak with a lawyer about how existing settlements might affect your rights.
- Negotiate with and litigate against auto parts manufacturers to recover compensation for anyone injured because of an airbag system defect. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, this might occur through a class action lawsuit, or in an individual action.
Damages in Malfunctioning Airbag CasesVictims of malfunctioning airbags may have the right to significant compensation. In many cases, the law holds manufacturers “strictly liable,” meaning that they owe victims compensation regardless of the circumstances of the victim's injury, if a court finds that the product was unreasonably dangerous. Those injured by a product when it fails to perform as intended under normal operating conditions may be able to recover damages to help them pay for:
- Medical costs and long term care;
- Pain, suffering, and disfigurement;
- Loss of income and the ability to earn an income; and
- Loss of life enjoyment and companionship.