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The Department of Justice Holds the NHTSA Responsible for the Slow Pace of Takata Airbag Recalls

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) are critical of the NHTSA's handling of the Takata airbag recall

Friday, July 27, 2018 - US government agencies involved in overseeing the largest motor vehicle recall in US history are pointing the blame at the incompetence of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the mostly failed Takata airbag recall. To date, less than one-half of the affected motor vehicle owners have complied and taken their vehicle to their dealer to have the deadly Takata airbag replaced leaving tens of millions of US drivers and their loved one's lives in grave danger.

According to, the Department of Transportation has recently accused the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration of not being tough enough on automobile manufacturers and on delinquent owners of recalled vehicles and has suggested that companies be fined for every day they delay in getting their vehicle's airbags replaced. The DOJ sites the NHTSA for its "lack of accountability" in implementing their mission of keeping America's highways safe.

A report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) implies that the NHTSA let down their guard when Takata had made assurances early on in the recall that the company had a handle on the airbag problem and that only approximately 10,000 vehicles would ultimately be affected. Shortly thereafter it was disclosed that Takata airbags with the faulty ammonium nitrate propellant cannister are around 50 million motor vehicles of every make and model and on every continent.

The accusations against the NHTSA goes on to include the agency downplaying the degree of injury that exploding Takata airbag victims sustained as well as failing to investigate incidents of exploding Takata airbags if they occurred in vehicles not included in the original recall list. The DOJ cites those reasons and more as to why nothing was done and no urgency was given in the early years of the recall between 2008 and 2015.

The upshot of the OIG report is that the NHTSA has not done enough to hold automakers responsible for taking sufficient action to enforce the Takata airbag recall and that had the NHTSA done their job, fines of over $1million per day could be implemented against the likes of Honda, Ford, General Motors and just about every automobile manufacturer to force them to take the airbag recall more seriously.

As usual, when the government fails to do their job, the free market picks up the slack. Recently, Ford Motor Inc., agreed to pay $299 million settlement of a class action lawsuit to a fund whose purpose is to better contact Ford owners and to pay for the towing and repair of their vehicle as well as for a rental vehicle while the Takata airbags are being replaced. Those participants in the legal action will still be able to consult with a Takata airbag lawyer and file a separate claim against the manufacturer of their vehicle if they have been the victim of the exploding Takata airbag.


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Onder, Shelton, O'Leary & Peterson, LLC is a St. Louis personal injury law firm handling serious injury and death claims across the country. Its mission is the pursuit of justice, no matter how complex the case or strenuous the effort. Onder, Shelton, O'Leary & Peterson has represented clients throughout the United States in pharmaceutical and medical device litigation such as Pradaxa, Lexapro and Yasmin/Yaz, where the firm's attorneys held significant leadership roles in the litigation, as well as Actos, DePuy, Risperdal and others. The Onder Law Firm has won more than $300 million in four talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuits in St. Louis. Law firms throughout the nation often seek its experience and expertise on complex litigation.