Airbags are meant to save lives. Tens of millions of automobiles equipped with Takata airbags were recalled after regulators determined they could explode with such force that the metal cannister holding the airbag becomes a grenade. A new investigation is underway concerning airbags made by TRW Automotive Holdings. Safety regulators are concerned that these airbags might not even deploy in a crash.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation is focused on 12.3 million cars sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. Regulators are concerned that airbags in these vehicles might not properly deploy in an accident. The airbags were made by TRW Automotive. The company is today owned by ZF Friedrichshafen and is also known as ZF – TRW.
Recently the NHTSA investigation was upgraded after several reported fatal accidents in which TRW airbags failed to deploy. According to published reports, four deaths may have been caused by defective TRW airbags in Hyundai and Kia vehicles, three in in FCA vehicles and one fatality involving a Toyota Corolla.
Fiat Chrysler had already recalled 1.4 million vehicles. In 2018, Kia and Hyundai recalled 1.1 million cars.
The defective airbags can be found in certain 2010 through 2019 cars. The decision to upgrade the investigation is the regulatory step that usually occurs before a formal recall. Individual automakers, however, are free to recall vehicles on their own, something that Fiat Chrysler has already done.
Vehicles that might be affected include:
- 2010 Chrysler Sebring (recalled)
- 2011 through 2014 Chrysler 200 (recalled)
- 2010 through 2012 Dodge Caliber (recalled)
- 2010 through 2014 Dodge Avenger (recalled)
- 2010 through 2014 Jeep Patriot and Compass (recalled)
- 2012 and 2013 Lancia Flavia (recalled)
- Acura RLX 2014-2019
- Acura RLX Hybrid 2014-2019
- Acura TL 2012-2014
- Acura TLX 2015-2017
- Acura TSX 2012-2014
- Acura TSX Sport Wagon 2014
- Acura TSX Sportswagon 2012-2013
- Dodge Nitro 2010-2011
- Dodge Ram 1500 2009
- Dodge Ram 3500 2010
- Fiat 500 2012-2019
- Honda Accord 2013-2015
- Honda Accord Hybrid 2014-2015
- Honda Civic 2012-2015
- Honda Civic GX 2012-2015
- Honda Civic Hybrid 2012-2015
- Honda Civic SI 2012-2015
- Honda CR-V 2012-2016
- Honda Fit 2012-2017
- Honda Fit EV 2013-2014
- Honda Ridgeline 2012-2014
- Hyundai Sonata 2013-2019 (Hyundai recalled 2011 -2013)
- Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 2013-2019 (Hyundai recalled 2011 and 2012 hybrids)
- Jeep Compass 2015-2017
- Jeep Liberty 2010-2012
- Jeep Patriot 2015-2017
- Jeep Wrangler 2010-2018
- Kia Forte 2010 – 2013 (recalled by Kia)
- Kia Forte KOUP 2013
- Kia Optima 2013-2019 (Kia recalled 2011 – 2013 Optimas)
- Kia Optima Hybrid 2012-2016 (Kia recalled 2011 and 2012)
- Kia Sedona 2014 (Kia recalled 2011 and 2012)
- Mitsubishi Lancer 2013-2017
- Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 2013-2015
- Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart 2014-2015
- Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback 2013-2016
- Mitsubishi Outlander 2013
- Ram 1500 2009-2012
- Ram 2500 2010-2012
- Ram 3500 2010-2012
- Ram 4500 2011-2012
- Ram 5500 2011-2012
- Toyota Avalon 2012-2018
- Toyota Avalon Hybrid 2013-2018
- Toyota Corolla 2011-2019
- Toyota Corolla IM 2017-2018
- Toyota Corolla Matrix 2011-2013
- Toyota Sequoia 2012-2017
- Toyota Tacoma 2012-2019
- Toyota Tundra 2012-2017
Since there is no formal recall from the government, official information floating around is sparse and sometimes contradictory. Consumers needing information should check with the automakers directly. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or email them to ask questions. Often people don’t get safety notices or recall information simply because the automakers have lost touch with their customers. The dealer may know where you are but not the automaker.
The confusion over TRW airbags is nothing new. In 2015, consumerauto.org reported that NHTSA was telling consumers not to disable their airbags while awaiting repairs while Toyota was giving the opposite advice. And they say that the government identified 39 cases in which a car fixed under an earlier TRW recall had the airbags deploy a non-crash situation.
We suggest that you in addition to checking with the automaker, you always check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Have your VIN number handy and just enter it into their recall website.
It’s Not Just the ZF TRW Airbags
What could be worse than defective airbags? How about both defective airbags and seatbelts. The same airbag control unit that tells the airbags when to deploy in some vehicles is also linked to the vehicles’ seat belt pretensioning system. This is the mechanism that allows you to lean forward during normal driving but locks the seatbelt during sudden stops or an accident. Safety experts worry that a defect in the airbag control unit could create an “electrical overstress” that could also cause the seat belt pretensioner to fail.
We are disappointed that the auto industry has apparently learned little from the Takata tragedy. How many people must die before the automakers and regulators issue recalls? The NHTSA will only say that they “will evaluate whether an unreasonable risk exists that requires further field action.”
Already a class action has been started on behalf of consumers who own one of these vehicles. As we learned in the Takata case, simply by having or being associated with a car containing a defective airbag, may cause your vehicle to be worth considerably less.
Class actions are the ideal way for consumers to recover something for the hassle of owning a defective automobile or truck. No single consumer can afford to sue the big auto companies because their car might be worth a couple hundred bucks less. It would not be worth the time, expense and hassle.
If you own one of these cars, you should participate in the class action. But if your injured or a loved is killed by a defective airbag, steer clear of the class action.
Injured by a Defective Airbag?
Class actions don’t work in injury cases. If you are hurt, a class action is not the right way to go. You don’t want to be lumped into a class and walk away with your check for a few hundred bucks. Injury cases should always be considered as individual defective products cases.
Let’s sum up. Class cases are for those seeking compensation for the hassle of driving a defective car. An individual case is probably the only way to go if you are injured because of a defective airbag.
In the Takata cases, a defective propellant that inflates the airbags can explode with such force that the metal air bag cannister that holds the airbag can become a grenade. Instead of being saved by the airbags, the cannister may violently explode, sending sharp metal shards throughout the passenger compartment. Shards that shred the airbag and can blind, maim or kill the occupants.
In the ZF – TRW airbag cases, an alleged electrical “overstress” in the airbag control unit prevents the airbag from inflating and may also cause the seatbelts to fail.
Automobile products cases are difficult. TRW and the car companies are likely to blame another vehicle or you – the driver – for any injuries sustained in an accident. Regardless who is at fault, however, the purpose of airbags and seatbelts is to save lives.
If the TRW engineered airbag control unit is defective, TRW can be held responsible. If the car companies knew about problems with the ZF – TRW airbag controllers but continued to utilize them, they can also be held responsible. We believe that as early as 2011, many automakers knew TRW airbags were defective.
Why didn’t TRW and the car companies voluntarily recall these vehicles? We have been asking ourselves that question since the Takata aorbag crisis started. And our answer is the same. Money. Many thought they could get away with it.
Some car companies continued to use them all the way through 2019 even though other cars were already being recalled!
The callousness of the automakers is heightened by all we learned – and all that they evidently did NOT learn – as the result of the Takata airbag debacle.
If you or a loved one was killed or seriously injured in a car equipped with a defective airbag, call us. To best prosecute these cases, we generally need the car. If the wreck occurred years ago and the vehicle was long ago scrapped, we probably can’t help. We must prove the airbag controller failed and not some other component of the airbag system. That is difficult without the car.
For more information, contact us online, by email at or by phone at 202-800-9791. Cases taken nationwide and are handled on a contingent fee basis. Hurt because of a Takata airbag? Visit our Takata airbag claim center page for additional details.
19-Year-Old Student Left Brain Damaged because of TRW Airbags
We hate these stories, a 19-year-old nursing student and violinist left permanently injured and brain damaged. Why? A jury said because of an airbag system manufactured by TRW Automotive US. Here is her story.
Nicole Thompson, 19, was driving her Dodge in the center lane of the roadway. She was sideswiped by a vehicle passing her in the left lane. As a result of that impact, she crashed into a power pole. The estimated speed of impact was 30 m.p.h.
The crash left Nicole with severe brain damage and partial paralysis. Even after extensive surgeries, speech therapy and physical therapy, she was not able to return to school. Prior to the accident she had a scholarship for pre-nursing and was a talented violinist.
Now she suffers slowed thought-processing, impaired decision-making, loss of short-term memory, and seizures. She also lost the use of her right hand, which was her dominant hand before the accident. She no longer can play the violin nor pursue a nursing career. Unfortunately, she also must face a lifetime of pain and suffering.
Nicole sued TRW. She says the airbags never deployed when she crashed into a large power pole at 30 mph. TRW claimed the airbag sensor system made the right decision in not deploying the airbags because she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. Bizarrely, they argued that if the airbags had deployed, she would have been even more severely injured because she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt and was therefore out-of-position.
Nicole said she was wearing her seatbelt but that it didn’t work. Remember, in some cars the TRW airbag controller also operates the seatbelt tensioner.
The jury didn’t buy TRW’s arguments. They held the company responsible for her injuries. Whatever happened when she was sideswiped is not what caused her injuries. That was the fault of the defective airbag system.
The jury awarded her $1.01 million for future pain and suffering, $965,000 for medical expenses, $861,700 for past pain and suffering and disability and $373,100 in other damages for a total of $3.35 million. TRW refused to pay and instead appealed.
Special Word for Automobile Whistleblowers
A new law allows whistleblowers with inside information about automobile safety defects to claim large case awards. Please call us for more details. We have one of the largest whistleblower practices in the United States, our clients have received over $100,000,000.00 in the last five years.
Remember, if you or a loved one was killed or suffered serious injuries because of defective airbag components, you may be able to claim monetary damages from TRW as well as the auto manufacturer. For more information, contact us online, by email at or by phone at 202-800-9791. Cases taken nationwide and are handled on a contingent fee basis.