PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) -- Arizona has reached a $5 million settlement with Honda related to faulty Takata airbags, and 3 On Your Side has learned that thousands of Arizona car owners will get a piece of it.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich claims that the carmaker concealed known safety issues with Takata airbags in some of its vehicles for years. Despite recall announcements and awareness campaigns, many dangerous Takata airbags remain in cars, including one involved in a deadly crash in Mesa on Aug. 20, 2020.
According to Honda, the driver of a 2002 Honda Civic was killed when a recalled Takata airbag inflator ruptured. Metal shrapnel was discovered in Amber Strahan's neck during an autopsy, a report from the Mesa Police Department revealed. The airbag inflator had been under recall since December 2011.
Strahan's death is the second in Arizona and the 17th nationwide related to a faulty Takata airbag, Honda said. According to the company, Strahan was not the registered owner of the vehicle.
"Starting in January 2012, more than 15 mailed recall notices were sent over the course of eight years to registered owners of this vehicle before the August 2020 crash," a company statement said. "In addition, Honda made numerous phone calls in an attempt to reach owners of this vehicle and physically visited the address of the current owner, leaving recall information attached to the home's front door."
"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver," Honda added.
Under Brnovich's new settlement with Honda, there will be a financial incentive to get recalled airbags off the road.
"We know there's a family that lost a loved one, not only here in Arizona, but it's happened in other places. And so we want to make sure that people know about this, and as soon as possible, they get those airbags replaced," Brnovich said.
According to the settlement, some Honda and Acura owners in Arizona will receive restitution checks worth at least $100. Another 40,000 Arizonans will be mailed gift cards worth $50 to $150. The gift cards will not be activated until recalled airbags are replaced.
"We wanted to create an incentive, a creative incentive, working with Honda so people would go in and get those airbags replaced, so they're not putting themselves or their family members in danger," Brnovich said.
Under the terms of the settlement, Honda does not acknowledge any wrongdoing.
"The now-bankrupt airbag inflator supplier, Takata, pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal criminal fraud charges for deceiving Honda and other automakers about the safety of its airbags," the company said in a statement emailed to 3 On Your Side.
"Honda continues to lead the industry in its efforts to replace defective Takata airbag inflators," the statement continued. "The company has thus far replaced more than 16 million defective Takata airbag inflators in its vehicles and made more than 294 million individual attempts to contact owners and urge them to have their recalled Takata airbag inflators replaced."
Vehicle owners who are covered by the settlement will automatically receive restitution or gift cards.
"We are working with Honda, the Claims Administrator, and the DMV to make sure eligible consumers will receive the money and gift cards. If a viewer is concerned that they aren't included in the settlement, they can contact the Claims Administrator at 1-855-917-3583," said Katie Conner, a spokeswoman for Brnovich.
Owners of potentially affected 2001-2016 Honda and Acura vehicles can check their vehicle's recall status at www.recalls.honda.com for Honda owners or www.recalls.acura.com for Acura owners or by calling 1-888-234-2138. The repairs are free, can be completed quickly, and free loaner vehicles are available to vehicle owners during the repair, Honda added.
Although Arizona's settlement is related to Honda and Acura vehicles, Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, says it is critical for all drivers to check for open recalls and get safety issues fixed immediately.
"It's really important that people understand how dangerous these defective airbags are," Levine said. "There are literally tens of millions of these defective airbags that remain in vehicles. The older the vehicle, the higher the risk."
"It's dangerous to you and anyone else, frankly, in your car," he cautioned.
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