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Why is the airbag recall important?

It seems like 2014 will be remembered for the year of the auto recall. First it was General Motors, with the ignition key problem that threatened to stop running cars based on the weight of a keychain. The recall reportedly affected millions of cars and led to GM being subject to a $35 million fine.

The latest recall has to do with airbags. According to an ABC News report, airbags supplied by Takata Corporation are responsible for scores of injuries and three deaths. Essentially, the canisters that house the airbags could disintegrate when the airbags inflate; thus sending shards of shrapnel like metal  into unsuspecting drivers. Takata airbags are in cars manufactured by many major automakers, including Honda, Nissan, BMW and General Motors. 

In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave an urgent warning to millions of car owners to immediately take their cars in to get their airbags replaced. The warning was especially critical for car owners in places with high humidity.

The recall is also critical because of the legal liability involved. Manufacturers have a duty to inform consumers of dangerous defects and to take reasonable steps to remedy them. Should they fail to do so, they can be held liable to injured consumers.

Lately, a dispute has arisen between Takata and the federal government as to whether the NHTSA has the authority to compel suppliers to initiate recalls. However, if a person is injured by a defective part, chances are that he or she will bring suit against both entities and claim that they are equally responsible.

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