Takata, Japanese manufacturer of the 34 million defective air bags involved in the largest product recall in U.S. history, rejected a U. S. Senator’s call to set up a victims’ compensation fund for the 8 people killed and more than 100 injured by flying shrapnel from their exploding air bags, and for future victims of the defective product.
In a letter to Senator Richard Blumenthal (Conn., D), Takata announced that after an internal review, “a national compensation fund is not currently required,” according to Kevin Kennedy, Takata Executive Vice President. Kennedy advised Takata would continue handling death and injury claims on an individual basis, and would defend itself in a multi-district litigation case in Florida. Kennedy also claims Takata would “continue to evaluate the possible benefits of such a mechanism” leaving the door open on the possibility of a future victims’ compensation fund, although we are doubtful Takata will accept this type of financial responsibility anytime soon since Takata only recently admitted its air bags were defective and reluctantly agreed to the massive recall.
Takata also rejected comparisons to GM which last year set up a victims’ compensation fund following its recall of over 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches arguing the GM fund was necessary to compensate GM victims who may not otherwise be compensated because of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy, a situation Takata does not have. To date, GM has approved 124 death claims and 266 injury claims to be paid out of the $600 million compensation fund.
Shocked by its refusal, Senator Blumenthal vowed to continue pressing Takata to take responsibility for the victims of its defective air bags, especially given that there are 34 million vehicles involved in the recall and most of those still unrepaired with many more possible victims before all repairs are completed over the next couple of years.
Even though Takata and federal regulators are still unsure about the cause of the exploding air bags, NHTSA Chief Mark Rosekind begged affected vehicle owners to “[A]ct now. Keep yourself and your family safe.” To find out if your vehicles contain defective air bags, locate the 17-digit VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) on the driver’s side dashboard or the inside of the driver’s side door panel, and input that number in the link at https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/. If your vehicle is affected by the recall, we strongly recommend you contact your dealership and schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have your defective air bags replaced. If your dealer does not have replacement air bags, request a loaner vehicle until the air bag repair can be made. Your life and the life of those you love could depend on it.
To view our prior blogs on the massive Takata air bag recall, check these links:
Explosive air bags prompt historic recall of almost 34 million vehicles (June 4, 2015)
Investigators deflated over air bag maker non-response issue $14,000 a day fine for non-cooperation (March 9, 2015)
Check this list to see if your vehicle is one of 7.8 million urgently recalled by safety regulators over exploding air bags (November 3, 2014)