Takata reaches $650 million settlement over defective air bags
(KMSP) - The Japanese air bag maker Takata has reached a $650 million settlement deal, but only a fraction of that money will be paid to consumers across the country because of the company's financial woes.
The deal was made as a part of Takata's criminal plea with the U.S. Justice Department. Senator Amy Klobuchar says the move is a long-awaited step in holding the company accountable for the deaths and devastation caused by a safety feature that turned into a ticking time bomb.
Claims over Takata's air bags and their dangerous impact have spanned across 44 states and Washington D.C. over the past decade.
For years, attorneys general for the states said the company concealed the product's safety defect: with too much force, the air bags explode and spew shrapnel.
The inflators have killed at least 22 people around the world and more than 180 have been hurt, including Shashi Chopra of North Oaks, Minn. In 2014, Chopra and her husband were in their BMW when a car made a left turn in front of them. Chopra, the passenger, was blinded after crash.
"The airbag just deployed and it exploded and I told my husband, 'I can't see anything,'" said Chopra in an interview with Fox 9 in 2014. "He was on the phone with 911 and I said 'I can't see anything. I'm totally blind.'"
The Chopras declined our request for an on-camera interview Thursday.
Under the deal, Takata agreed not to represent its air bags as safe unless supported by scientific evidence. Takata also agrees to pay victims $125 million and another $850 million from a restitution fund to automakers. However, states will not collect the money with the hope victims can get more of the company's remaining funds, but just how much Takata has left is unclear.
Lawsuits, multimillion dollar fines and recalls last year drove Takata into bankruptcy. Nearly 34 million vehicles were recalled, affecting nearly one in every seven vehicles on the road. The Takata air bag ordeal marks the largest auto recall in U.S. history.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, you can find out if your car has a defective Takata air bag, by checking your VIN at this link. Contact your dealer and get your vehicle fixed as soon as parts are available.