Faulty Takata airbags in Honda recall used chemical linked to Texas fertilizer plant explosion

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by Michael Heygood

Takata—the Japanese auto parts supplier whose defective airbags have led to the recall of 14 million vehicles made by Honda and other companies—used the same explosive chemical in its airbags that caused a 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, the New York Times has reported. At least six deaths and 30 cases of serious injuries have been linked to car accidents involving Takata airbags.

According the New York Times report, Takata’s airbags use the chemical ammonium nitrate as a propellant to inflate the airbag after a crash. Ammonium nitrate—which can be used as a fertilizer as well as a blasting agent—has been implicated in some of the biggest industrial disasters of the 20th century, including a 1921 explosion at a chemical plant in Germany that killed almost 600 people, a 1947 blast in Texas City, Texas that killed hundreds, and last year’s fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, which killed 15 people and injured 160.

Although ammonium nitrate is relatively stable compared to other blasting agents, problems can arise when the explosive chemical is subjected to temperature swings. When the ammonium nitrate in an airbag is left out in the hot sun all day or in the cold at night, it can cause changes in the crystalline structure of the chemical, meaning that it is a different compound than what was tested in a lab and will not explode in the same way when the airbag is set off.

Lawsuits filed against Takata and Honda allege that when the faulty airbags are set off, the explosion can send metal and plastic shrapnel flying into the cockpit of the vehicle like a bomb and into the bodies of the drivers and passengers. According to a class action lawsuit against Honda and Takata over the faulty airbags, the explosive charge components in Takata’s airbag systems have been defectively manufactured since at least 2001.

In addition to the millions of Honda vehicles that have been recalled, problems with Takata airbags have also been identified among some vehicles sold by BMW, Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, Infiniti, Mazda, and Acura. Most of the recalled vehicles were sold in the early or mid-2000s.

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Companies that manufacturer cars, trucks, and other automobiles know that at some point, these vehicles may be involved in a collision. When designing and manufacturing an automobile, car makers have a responsibility to make sure that their vehicles will be reasonably safe in the event of an accident. This principle is known as “vehicle crashworthiness.”

Crashworthiness can include many aspects of a vehicle’s design and manufacturing, including seat belts, crumple zones and airbags. These safety features are intended to minimize the risk of serious injuries, prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle, and reduce the risk of fire. Lawsuits filed over the crashworthiness of an automobile focus on whether or not the vehicle’s manufacturer is responsible for injuries that occurred during an accident that may have been caused or made worse by problems with the car or truck.

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If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a car accident, the injuries resulting from the crash may have been caused or made worse because the vehicle was not sufficiently crashworthy. In order to determine whether you may have a case, you need to retain experienced, qualified legal counsel at the earliest opportunity.

Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free evaluation of your case and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free legal consultation form.