When, as consumers, we count on products to work as they are supposed to, and they do not and cause harmful consequences, there is recourse in product liability law . Recent posts about this have involved medical products, but motor vehicles have the potential to be dangerous if there is something wrong, as well. A recent news story has highlighted the danger of a product for safety when driving that can be replaced with a fake, causing serious injuries or death in car accidents.
Airbags in cars have saved lives and lessened the severity of injuries in car accidents. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a warning about counterfeit airbags. NHTSA says the counterfeit airbags are being used as replacements for the proper product. So far they are not aware of any injuries or deaths relating to these fakes, but it is still dangerous to have them out there with the potential for injury or death. These fake airbags look nearly identical to the real ones, including the insignia and branding of major automakers, but NHTSA tested one and it showed consistent malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of the airbag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment. The fact that there have been no injuries, with these factors, may amount more to luck than to anything else.
NHTSA has identified certain makes and models of cars for which counterfeit airbags may be available (see a list at the bottom of this article). However, NHTSA says that only 0.1 percent of the cars in the U.S. may be affected. You may be affected if you have had the airbag replaced in your car within the last three years and it was not replaced by a new car dealership. If you have had your airbag replaced, or if you have bought a new airbag online, it is recommended that you contact the call center for your car's manufacturer. You can get further information about call centers here.
Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, said, "Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern. We want consumers to be immediately aware of this problem and to review our safety information to see if their vehicle could be in need of inspection.
In North Carolina, one manufacturer of these fake airbags took a plea deal last weekend on criminal charges. Additionally, several federal agencies are working together to learn more, and to stop the manufacture, sale, and installation of these dangerous counterfeit airbags.
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