The airbag taken from Serena Martinez' car, allegedly showing rips made by exploding inflator

A Texas woman injured when her airbag exploded in a September traffic accident is suing Takata and Honda Motor Co., alleging that the companies knew the design of the airbags was defective. 

Serena Martinez, 42, was injured on Sept. 11, when her 2002 Honda Accord was involved in a collision in Fort Bend County, Texas, allegedly caused when Mary Lopez of Harris County made a left turn in front of Martinez, resulting in a low-speed collision.

Upon impact, the ammonium nitrate in the airbag detonated, causing the inflator to fragment and metal shrapnel to be forced through the airbag, striking Martinez in the chest and arm, causing severe lacerations, the lawsuit charges.

Martinez' vehicle after the collision

Takata airbags are defectively designed because they use ammonium nitrate as an airbag propellant, said attorney Mo Aziz, who is representing Martinez. Ammonium nitrate is dangerously unstable and highly sensitive to temperature changes and moisture, Aziz said, adding that it has been known for decades that ammonium nitrate goes through thermal cycling that leads to its degradation and makes it more susceptible to detonation.

“Unfortunately, I expect to see more fatalities and serious injuries caused by exploding ammonium nitrate inflators,” said Aziz, who also represented the family of Houston teenager Huma Hanif, killed by an exploding airbag inflator earlier this year. 

“Takata has known of inflator ruptures since 2002. However, Takata chose to suppress that knowledge,” Aziz said in a statement to ConsumerAffairs.

Hanif's vehicle was initially recalled in 2008, but records showed that the recall repair never took place.

11 known dead in the U.S.

Federal safety regulators on Oct. 21 confirmed the 11th U.S. death involving Takata airbags. The agency has not released the name of the victim, but the vehicle she was driving was on a list of 2001-2003 Honda and Acura models that were at “substantially higher risk” of having the metal canister in the airbag rupture.

It is not known for certain whether Martinez' 2002 Honda had been recalled and, if it had been, whether the recall was completed. 

As we reported recently, car dealers across the country routinely face lengthy delays in getting the parts needed to carry out safety recalls. Some, like Ford, offer little in the way of help for customers while others, including Honda, say they offer loaner or rental vehicles when there are delays getting replacements for recalled Takata airbags. 

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