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Auto companies reach $553 million settlement for airbag defect

Auto companies Toyota, BMW, Mazda and Subaru that manufactured vehicles equipped with Takata airbags have agreed to a $553 million proposed settlement that would provide compensation to the owners of these automobiles in Encinitas and nationwide for the financial losses the suffered after the vehicles were recalled due to defects in the airbags. The settlement affects 15.8 million automobiles. Currently, the settlement is awaiting court approval.

The issue is centered on defective Takata airbags. When deployed, the inflators on these airbags utilized excessive force, which caused sharp pieces of metal to go flying at occupants in the automobiles. At least 16 individuals lost their lives due to this defect and another 180 individuals were injured due to this defect. The defect resulted in the biggest recall of motor vehicles in the United States.

The compensation going to owners of the affected automobiles would cover child care costs, the cost of a rental car or lost wages they incurred from having to get their automobile fixed. The compensation going to individuals at issue could be as high as $500 per person.

Per the terms of the settlement, the automobile companies must make further efforts to identify those affected by the defective airbags and notify them about the need for repairs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that as of April 28, merely 16 percent of those who possess a BMW, 18 percent of those who possess a Mazda, 31 percent of those who possess a Subaru and 32 percent of those who possess a Toyota have gotten their defective vehicles repaired.

Moreover, under the settlement the automobile companies must provide those who own the automobiles with the highest risk with a rental car at no cost. The older a vehicle is, the greater the risk is, because a certain chemical used in the inflators of the airbag can decompose as the vehicle ages.

Takata has already been penalized $1 billion for hiding the fact that the airbags were defective. And while this compensation may be of help to owners of the affected automobiles, it may come too little too late for those who were already injured or killed due to the defective airbags. Those individuals, or their families, may want to determine if they are able to seek further compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Car owners affected by Takata recall would get money under new settlement," May 18, 2017

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