Does a Killer Lurk In Your Car? Check Your VIN

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

When we learned in the fall of 2014 about the massive series of vehicle recalls involving airbags made by manufacturer Takata, which was then known to affect about 8 million vehicles, we wrote on this blog, “That number may grow higher still in the months ahead.” We had no idea then just how dreadfully right we were. In May 2015, under mounting pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and auto manufacturers, Takata agreed to recall a staggering 34 million airbags installed in U.S. vehicles. It is the largest automotive recall in American history. Each of the recalled airbags features one of the potentially defective ignition units. In defective airbag units, the small explosive charge that is meant only to deploy the airbag can instead explode with enough force to shatter its casing, sending metallic fragments into passenger cabins with sometimes lethal consequences. At least six people worldwide have been killed by shrapnel from exploding defective airbags. After more than 10 years of denying responsibility for the issue — and, according to a November 2014 report by the New York Times, after taking steps to conceal it — Takata finally conceded in May that its airbags could rupture and spew shrapnel at people driving or riding in Takata-equipped vehicles. Despite acknowledging the flaw, which may manifest more frequently in vehicles used in high-humidity climates, Takata said in June that it will continue using the volatile chemical ammonium nitrate in its airbag ignitors, despite the availability of safer alternatives. To find out if your vehicle is affected by the Takata recall, you’ll need your vehicle identification number (VIN). You can find your VIN on your state vehicle registration or your auto insurance card. Failing those, you can find your VIN on your vehicle itself: it’s usually on an adhesive sticker or small metallic plaque mounted on the dashboard, on the base of the windshield, or on the inside of your driver’s side doorframe. Once you have your VIN, visit safercar.gov, operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. You can use their “Recalls Look-up by VIN page” to determine whether your vehicle is affected by either the Takata recall or any other outstanding recall that you may have missed. If your vehicle doesn’t show up yet as affected by the Takata recall, do not assume that you’re in the clear. Remember: six months ago, 75 percent of the vehicles now known to be affected had not yet been identified. Until there is more certainty that the full extent of the Takata recall has been uncovered, make a habit of checking safercar.gov at least once a month. If you do need to have your vehicle repaired under the Takata recall, bear in mind that you may be forced to wait in line. Replacement airbag components are in short supply, and some drivers who already have had their airbags “repaired” may in fact have received a second defective ignitor as their replacement. In the meantime, if you or a loved one believe that your injuries in a car crash during the past 10 years may have been aggravated by an airbag explosion, call the Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys of Scartelli Olszewski today. We’ll review your case and help you determine whether Takata, your vehicle manufacturer, and other potentially involved parties bear some liability for your suffering.