Our Chicago personal injury attorneys spoke too soon when we postulated last week that it was already a busy time of year for automobile recalls.
Following retractions by both Ford and BMW, Kia Motors is the latest automaker to have products join the list of retracted cars, after it was found that both Kia Optima sedans and Kia Rondo crossover vehicles have potentially faulty driver airbags.
Kia Motors America is the American branch of sales, marketing, and distribution of Kia Motors Corporation, a multinational car-manufacturing conglomerate that reported sales of over 1.4 million vehicles in 2010. Kia Motors America first began producing automobiles in the United States in 2009, and it is this plant at which the Optima sedan and other crossover vehicles are manufactured.
According to a report issued this week by MSNBC, Kia is recalling 145,755 vehicles across the United States because the clock-spring contact assembly for the driver’s-side air bag supplemental restraint system may become damaged over time, potentially causing the driver’s air bag not to deploy.
In 1984, the United States government amended the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard to require that cars produced after 1989 be equipped with either airbags or an automatic seatbelt. In the years since, statistics have shown the enormous benefits of airbags, and federal safety standards have increased to necessitate airbags in all passenger vehicles.
For most recently produced cars, a central Airbag Control Unit (ACS) monitors sensors within the vehicle to determine pressure on the car, impact to the automobile, and/or brake pressure. When the threshold on one of the sensors is reached, the ACS directs the airbag to deploy, which rapidly inflates a nylon fabric bag. The bag is slightly porous, and when the vehicle’s occupant collides with the airbag, it releases the inflating gas through small holes in the bag; in doing so, (and in addition to restraint provided by a seatbelt,) it precludes the passenger from colliding with the much harder inside wall of the automobile, preventing more serious injuries. If an airbag does not deploy as intended, the risks arise of the passenger either colliding with the car itself or with the still-inflating airbag.
Corporations owe a duty of care to consumers. When their products ultimately harm consumers, those companies may be held legally responsible for damages from those injuries. In this case, if a Kia owner’s airbag does not inflate properly upon impact, the driver of the vehicle could suffer more serious injuries than if the airbag had been working properly. Although Kia Motors would not be liable for causing the crash, they could potentially be responsible for causing circumstances that made resulting injuries worse.
Though to date, Kia Motors is not aware of any injuries caused by the faulty airbags, if a car accident occurred and the airbags failed to deploy, Kia could be held legally responsible for the monetary damages required to compensate the consumer if it can be shown that his or her injuries are worse as a result of Kia’s defective product.
When consumers are harmed because products are unsafe, an Illinois personal injury lawsuit may arise, and the corporations responsible for production may be made to pay compensatory damages to put the consumer back in the position they were in before the injury occurred. This includes covering medical and hospital expenses, and in more serious cases, compensating the victim for a loss of normal life or lost wages. In some cases when the companies’ errors are egregious, they may also be made to pay punitive damages which serve to punish the company and to send a message to others in the same position to be more careful in the future.
For this particular recall, the models affected are 9 5,569 2006-2008 Optimas and 50,186 2007-2008 Rondos. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys want consumers to be careful; if you have one of these cars, do not drive it until it has been examined by a licensed Kia dealer.