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Lawsuit Alleges Honda Airbag Defect Responsible for Death

Vehicle accidents remain one of the leading causes of death and injury, and most occur as a result of negligence or recklessness. One Florida woman, however, may have been killed as a result of a fatal air bag defect.

Fatal Air Bag Defect Known Since 2004

When Hien Thi Tran’s 2001 Honda Accord struck another vehicle on September 29, 2014, her air bag exploded causing, according to an Orange County medical examiner, “stab-type” wounds from airbag shrapnel. Her injuries were so severe that police initially conducted a homicide investigation. After her death, however, the 51-year-old’s family received a recall notice from Honda for the airbag in her vehicle. Tran’s death is only the most recent of several deaths linked to Honda airbags, four of which occurred in the U.S. and three of which were specifically linked to Honda Accords. Eight serious injuries have been linked to the airbags since 2009.

Specifically, Honda and the airbag manufacturer, Takata, have allegedly known of the defect since 2004. According to Tran’s family’s investigation, Takata engaged in “secret tests” which revealed the defect, but failed to report the results to regulators. When the air bag’s propellant is exposed to high humidity for a prolonged period of time, the propellant can burn too fast and eject metal fragments into passengers. Despite this knowledge, Honda purportedly sent a message, only one week before Tran’s death, discouraging its dealer network from “proactively contact[ing] customers at this time” regarding the potential defect, due a deficit of replacement parts.

Lawsuits, Settlements, and Recalls

Tran’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against Honda and Takata. Tran’s suit is far from the first lawsuit, but many similar suits have settled before the information could become public through the court system. One individual involved with a previous case stated that Honda and Takata “wanted to resolve [the suit] immediately . . . It almost seemed like they were going to pay us off to shut us up.” There have yet to be any public trials. In addition to the suits motivated by passengers’ injury and death, more than 15 proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed against Honda for the defect’s effect on a purchased car’s value.

In November, Honda announced a global recall of all vehicles containing Takata airbags, although the recall did not apply to any U.S. vehicles. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received notice of planned limited regional recalls from Honda, along with other car manufacturers such as Ford and Toyota, who also used the Takata air bag inflators. Honda does not plan to notify customers with potentially affected airbags outside of the recall areas.

The NHTSA continues to seek more detailed information from the manufacturers, but safety advocates have accused the agency of failing to adequately investigate the issue. If you were injured in a vehicle accident, whether caused by negligence, carelessness, or an automotive defect, contact experienced Fort Lauderdale vehicular accident attorney Scott Newmark for assistance navigating your potential lawsuit or claim.

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