If you are like most drivers, you rely on safety features in your car, such as seatbelts and airbags, to keep you safe in the event of a collision. While your seatbelt provides a visible reassurance that you are protected, your airbags are hidden, leaving you to trust in this unseen safety shield.
But what if your airbag isn’t really an airbag?
Unfortunately, our auto accident attorneys have learned that is the case in a large number of vehicles on the roads today. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced that vehicles which had an air bag replaced at a repair shop – not a new-car dealership – could potentially have a counterfeit airbag installed. These counterfeit devices will not inflate in the event of a crash.
To make matters worse, these counterfeit airbags sometimes do deploy. But when they do, they often expel metal shrapnel in the process, making the deployment just and dangerous as the alternative.
Making these products more dangerous is the fact that they are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. They even are marked with the insignias and brand names of major automakers.
The warning applies only to airbags replaced in the past three years. Airbags are typically replaced after a crash occurs, to make the car safe in the event of a future auto accident.
As of yet, the NHTSA is unaware of any deaths due to the counterfeit bags. If they are left in operation, however, it is only a matter of time until such deaths occur. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood identified the counterfeit bags as a “serious safety concern” and urged vehicle owners whose cars might contain the bags to have their vehicles inspected as soon as possible.
If you have had your cars airbag or airbags replaced by a private repair shop within the past three years, you should contact an automaker call center to arrange to have your vehicle inspected and, if needed, the airbag replaced.
For now, the NHTSA is operating on the assumption that the presence and use of these counterfeit airbags is the result of criminal activity. The Agency is working with several other federal agencies and departments to identify the perpetrators, bring them to justice, and ensure that this type of problem does not recur.
In the meantime, auto accident attorneys such as those at Passen & Powell stand ready to assist the victims of these counterfeit airbags, and help them to obtain compensation should injuries occur.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago auto accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.