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Airbags are one of the most important safety features in any vehicle. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that airbags saved 2,790 lives in 2017. If an accident occurs, airbags can help reduce the likelihood of fatality or injury to the head or upper body by preventing drivers and their passengers from striking the dashboard, windshield, or the steering wheel.
However, airbags can sometimes be defective and fail to deploy during an accident or rupture and send fragments of metal flying when they do. In fact, over the past several years, there has been an ongoing recall of millions of airbags manufactured by Takata, affecting countless makes and models of vehicles. It’s been reported that these faulty airbags have caused numerous injuries and fatalities.
If your car has been subject to an airbag recall or you think it may have faulty airbags, you should be able to receive an airbag replacement from the manufacturer at no charge. You may also have legal remedies available under California’s Lemon Law if the airbag defect causes your vehicle to rise to the level of a lemon.
California’s Lemon Law protects consumers from the significant hassle, monetary loss, and safety risks that can be associated with purchasing a new or used vehicle within the state that doesn’t conform to its warranty.
If your car is under warranty and has a defect that cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts were made, you may invoke the lemon law to get a replacement vehicle or refund. There is also a legal presumption that a car is a lemon if the unrepairable defect arose within 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery or the first 18,000 miles driven.
It’s usually sufficient to show that four repair attempts were made to satisfy the requirements of the lemon law. However, if the defect would be likely to cause severe injury or death — such as in the case of faulty airbags — only two repair attempts must be made.
You may also be able to assert your rights under the lemon law if you brought your car to the shop to have defective airbags repaired, and it remained there for thirty days or more.
Problems with airbags can arise for any number of reasons. The airbags or the sensors may have been installed improperly by the manufacturer. There could also be an issue with the car’s computer system or the airbag system’s electronic control unit. Additionally, airbags can be defective if they are poorly designed or manufactured.
There have also been instances in which counterfeit airbags have been installed in vehicles. The NHSTA has identified fake airbags in certain vehicle makes and models that fail to deploy, malfunction, or shoot shards of metal, placing drivers at severe risk of injury or fatality.
Counterfeit airbags are sometimes used by repair shops in an attempt to cut corners when carrying out an airbag replacement. An individual, dealership, or repair shop that knowingly installs or sells a vehicle with counterfeit airbags is in violation of California law and may face civil and criminal penalties. In these cases, a consumer who purchased a vehicle with counterfeit airbags or has had their vehicle repaired with them may be able to assert a civil claim against the repair shop or dealership to recover their damages.
Unfortunately, faulty airbags are sometimes not discovered until they fail to deploy or inflate properly in the event of a car crash. Defective airbags may also deploy unexpectedly at any time while operating the vehicle.
Other indications that there might be a problem with your vehicle’s airbags can include malfunctioning airbag impact sensors or issues with the ON/OFF sensor.
Additionally, you may be alerted that your vehicle has defective airbags if there was a recall. If an airbag recall was issued for your vehicle, you should have received a notice in the mail from the manufacturer. If you didn’t receive a notice, you can check whether your vehicle is part of an active recall by searching for its VIN on the NHTSA website.
Even if your vehicle isn’t subject to an active recall doesn’t mean that it won’t be in the future. Since the Takata airbag recall is ongoing, there may be a future recall issued, so it’s a good idea to check the recall list periodically.
There has been an ongoing recall concerning Takata airbags that were supplied to some of the major automakers — these airbags can explode when they deploy, resulting in severe injury or fatality.
The faulty airbags were installed in a variety of makes and models, affecting tens of millions of vehicles manufactured over the course of the last two decades. The affected vehicles include various models of cars, trucks, and SUVs made by Honda, BMW, GM, Chrysler, Daimler, Chrysler, Ferrari, Fisker, Ford, Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota, Ford, Mazda, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Mistubishi, Subaru, Tesla and Volkswagon.
According to the NHTSA, the following vehicle models should have the airbags replaced immediately, due to increased risk of injury:
Consumers who own a vehicle affected by the recall should bring it back to the dealership for an airbag replacement. In certain instances, a consumer may also be able to invoke the lemon law if the defect could not be repaired while the vehicle was still under warranty.
Faulty airbags have the potential to cause severe injuries and should be replaced as soon as possible. If you purchased a vehicle with faulty airbags, you might have a lemon. An experienced California Lemon Law attorney can advise you whether your airbag defects meet lemon law criteria and help ensure your rights as a consumer are protected. It’s important to understand that you only have a four-year time frame in California to commence a lemon law claim, which begins running from the date you found out about the vehicle's defect.
The Ledbetter Law Firm helps people in Southern California who have experienced lemon law issues with their vehicles obtain a vehicle replacement or the refund that they deserve. With offices conveniently located in San Diego and Torrance, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (619) 374-0252 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.