Though it hasn’t yet grabbed headlines like the GM ignition switch recall, troubling questions have been raised around automotive supplier Takata following an air bag recall that affects nearly 8 million vehicles. In recent weeks, GM has come under fire for its handling of a known defect in its ignition switches, which explains much of the outrage surrounding the automotive maker. However, it is now becoming apparent that Takata and Honda also downplayed the dangers of certain defective parts installed in millions of vehicles, produced by at least ten manufacturers.

WHY HAS TAKATA CALLED FOR AN AIR BAG RECALL?

When this safety device deploys, it uses a small metal canister filled with propellant to launch the cushion. This propellant is combustible, and when it is working properly, it is like a small jet engine that fires the cushion when an impact is detected. The entire process takes less than a second to trigger, and this speed is needed to keep the driver or passenger from striking the dashboard.

However, any vehicle with a defective device could be driving around with a small bomb tucked behind the cushion instead. The automotive supplier claims that when exposed to high levels of humidity for extended periods of time, the propellant inside the canister may deteriorate. This can cause the propellant to combust too aggressively during a crash, possibly blowing open the canister and sending metal shards through the cushion and into the skin of the driver. It’s akin to a small frag grenade going off just inches from the victim’s face.

Reports of injuries are still flooding in, but more than 100 injuries have already been linked to the defect, including four fatal incidents to date. And these fatal injuries have been gruesome. In one incident, a 33-year-old mother suffered severe lacerations to her neck when the propellant canister exploded in her car after bumping into a mail truck. She died from massive blood loss while her children were in the car with her.

WHICH VEHICLES ARE A PART OF THE TAKATA AIR BAG RECALL?

Unfortunately, it isn’t entirely clear which vehicle models may have a defective device as both the automotive supplier and Honda worked to keep the defect a secret. The supplier claims that only vehicle models between 2002 and 2008 are affected. However, to be safe, you should write down your vehicle’s VIN number and look it up through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. Honda is the maker of the most relevant vehicles, though GM, Ford, Dodge, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Lexus, Infiniti and BMW are believed to be safety risks as well.

WHAT IS THE STATUS OF LAWSUITS FILED AGAINST TAKATA?

The automotive supplier has already projected a $235 million loss due to the cost of fixing the safety issue, but they will likely pay several million more to people who have already been hurt. It will be difficult for the company to defend itself in court as company employees have already admitted that the defect was known in 2004. A whole four years before alerting any consumers, and nearly a decade before issuing a general safety alert. Lawsuits are already being organized in cities around the country, and attorneys are ready to fight the negligent supplier.