On July 11, 2023, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration( NHTSA) officially confirmed another Takata airbag rupture fatality. This fatality comes as the first due to an exploding passenger-side inflator, as well as the first for the 2003 Dodge Ram 1500. While this is the first fatality linked to the Takata airbags in a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500, this is not the first time it has been recalled.
In 2015, Chrysler (FCA US LLC) recalled 385,686 certain model year 2003 Dodge Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks manufactured from August 29, 2002, to July 25, 2003, due to a safety defect in the passenger side frontal air bag inflator. Owners of the vehicles at the time were advised not to drive their vehicles until they could receive a replacement airbag.
Following the recall in 2015, the NHTSA estimates that there are roughly 84,000 of these pickup trucks on the road that are unrepaired. Since the confirmation that the Takata airbag was the cause of the death, the FCA has officially issued a safety recall notice for the Dodge Ram 1500 and is warning drivers not to drive the vehicle until the recall is completed and their defective airbag is replaced, any driver behind the wheel of the vehicle is at grave risk of serious injury or death.
The fatality brings the total number of confirmed Takata fatalities in the United States to 26. The NHTSA says all vehicle owners must check for open Takata recalls and to seek the repairs available as soon as possible if their vehicle is under recall. Drivers need to take full caution, as even minor crashes can result in exploding Takata airbags that can cause severe, life-altering injuries and even death. Drivers who own older vehicle models are at higher risk as the aging of the airbags is one of the contributing factors.
Drivers can check if their vehicles are affected by the Takata recall by heading over to the NHTSA's website and entering their car's 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in their search bar. A vehicle VIN can be found on the lower left of the car's windshield or the owner's car's registration card, as well as on the driver's insurance card. If your vehicle does not show up on the list, drivers can call their Chrysler dealership to learn more about the recall and if their car is affected by the Takata recall.
History Behind the Takata Recalls
The now-bankrupt Japanese company, the Takata Corporation, created the Takata airbags. The airbags were installed in vehicles from 2002 through 2015. Since 2009, there have been reports of more than 400 injuries caused by the exploding airbags in various automakers' vehicles, and over 30 deaths worldwide, 26 of which were in the U.S. After further investigation into the reports, the NHTSA announced that the root cause of issue within the airbag was the design and the chemical compound the company used to inflate the airbags.
The Takata airbags were designed to have a metal cartridge (inflator) loaded with an ammonium-nitrate-based propellant. While this was a cost-efficient option for the company, the chemical is considered to be highly flammable and was typically used when making bombs. However, the issue did not only lie within the chemical compound but with the issue that Takata did not load the compound with a chemical drying agent.
Without the drying agent to accompany the chemical, in an environment where things like moisture, high temperatures, and overall aging taking place--the inflator's housing could rupture. If the inflators rupture, they can propel metal shards from the airbag toward the driver, and anyone in the passenger seats or cabin, leaving them with severe or even life-threatening injuries.
Vehicle Companies Affected by the Takata Recall
Since the issues with the Takata airbags began, there have been various announcements made. As it stands, the Takata recall has grown to include 67 million airbags from over 47 million vehicles nationwide. Some of the auto companies that have released a recall due to the Takata airbags include Chrysler, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen.
If you are currently the owner of a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500 or if you own any of the previously recalled vehicles equipped with the Takata airbags and have suffered an injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For more information on the Takata recalls or to learn more about how we may be able to help you, we highly recommend you speak to a Morgan & Morgan attorney. Connect with a Morgan & Morgan attorney today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form.