Airbags and other car safety technologies, like head-up displays, aim to prevent car accidents or make them less severe. However, when they’re made defectively, these devices can make things even worse, and can lead to products liability issues.
This is just the case with the defects in Takata’s airbags. Because they were poorly designed, Takata’s airbags have been hurting innocent drivers across the United States. Some of these injuries have even been fatal. Now, in the midst of an incredibly slow recall process, Takata has pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges for its part in covering up the defects.
Takata’s Fraudulent Cover-Up
The whole situation started in the 1990s, when the company Takata found a new and cheaper way to make airbags. By using ammonium nitrate to inflate the airbag instead of other gases, Takata was able to make airbags for far less money than their competitors. Car manufacturers flocked to Takata to save money.
However, around the year 2000, Takata began realizing that their ammonium nitrate inflators were failing. During testing, some of them would rupture or explode. Takata’s business was booming, though, and they didn’t want to lose customers. So they started submitting false or fabricated reports to their clients, in order to cover up the fact that their airbag inflators were failing. These fake reports were then used to keep their customers in the illusion that the inflators were up to specifications, and were safe.
Even after the inflators started rupturing and exploding in the real world – severely injuring unwary drivers – Takata’s executives kept falsifying their reports. Instead, they insisted that their inflators were fine, withholding the evidence that they were failing while being tested.
Guilty Plea to Wire Fraud
This cover-up, however, constituted wire fraud in the U.S. As the Takata recall process went on, details began to emerge of the cover-up, and the Department of Justice started to investigate.
Those investigations culminated in Takata’s agreement in January to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. As a part of this plea deal, they would pay a $25 million fine, along with $975 in restitution. Out of the restitution money, $125 million would go into a fund for people who had been hurt by one of Takata’s defective airbags. The other $850 million would be used in the recall process.
The plea deal was finalized on February 28, 2017.
St. Joseph Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Takata’s airbag recall has been an ongoing issue in the personal injury world for years, now. It has even made it more difficult to buy a used car that is safe to drive.
All of these issues are things that the personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office pay attention to. If you’re driving, you should be able to count on your airbag to keep you safe in a car accident. If your airbag hurts you, instead, you deserve to be compensated for whatever injuries you suffer.
Call the Smith Law Office at (816) 875-9373 or contact us online if you or a loved one has been hurt by one of Takata’s defective airbags. Our personal injury attorneys will fight for your rights and interests to ensure you get the care you need.