Defective airbags make cars "ticking time bombs": FAQs for victims

The Takata airbag recall involves approximately 20 percent of all vehicles on the roads.

The Takata airbag recall is one of the largest in the history of recalls in the United States. It spans almost a decade and involves more than 60 million airbags in 17 different types of cars. What exactly does that mean? This translates, according to a recent piece by Bloomberg, to one of every five cars on the road potentially subject to the recall.

20 percent of cars on the road are at risk of a serious malfunction in the event of even a minor crash. If the crash triggers the airbag, and even collisions at speeds as low as 8 miles an hour can result in deployment of the airbag, pieces of metal can be propelled with the airbag and cause serious injuries.

So what went wrong? In order to understand the mistake that led to this issue, it helps to have a basic understanding of how these devices work. The rapid expansion of the airbag is the result of a controlled explosion. This controlled explosion occurs when a propellant in a tablet form within a small metal canister is triggered. Once the propellant is triggered, it releases gas at a rapid rate exploding through the canister and filling the material that becomes the balloon-like structure we know of as the airbag.

Unfortunately, early forms of the propellant were scarce. In an effort to create a more efficient propellant, Takata began researching the use of ammonium nitrate. Other experts in the field voiced concerns that the substance was too volatile to be safe, but Takata pushed forward.

Although many issues emerged with the use of this substance, the biggest involved the fact that the propellant would not remain in the tablet form. Instead it would decompose into a powder, which was much less stable. If the powder were to be triggered the reaction would no longer be a controlled explosion. It would simply be an explosion.

This explosion would result in more than just the quick expansion of the airbag. It also results in the propulsion of metal pieces that can seriously injure anyone within range.

Why has it taken so long to fix this problem? As noted above, the problem has spanned for nearly a decade. A large part of the issue is the fact that leaders at Takata have provided regulators with inaccurate and misleading information about the problem.

Takata manufactured airbags for a number of vehicles over a large span of time. As such, it has been difficult to replace or otherwise fix the vehicles that are impacted by this issue.

What is being done? In addition to paying attention to recall notices and fixing vehicles when possible, victims are coming forward with civil suits against the airbag manufacturer.

One example involves a woman who suffered serious injuries as a result of a faulty Takata airbag. Here injuries left her quadriplegic. According to a recent report by Reuters, Takata recently settled for an undisclosed amount with the woman.

What if I am a victim? Remedies are available to those who are injured due to injuries suffered from an auto defect like the airbag issue discussed above.

Victims can hold those responsible for these injuries accountable through a personal injury lawsuit. This suit, a civil suit, allows the victim to demand the responsible party cover all costs associated with the accident. In addition to monetary awards, these types of cases also bring public attention to the issue and deter others from making the same mistakes.