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Airbag Repair Fraud Puts Drivers At Risk

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

In the last few decades automakers have made great strides to reduce injuries and fatalities in car accidents. One of the most effective of these life-saving advances is the airbag. Seatbelts remain crucial in reducing injuries during a crash but airbags have proven to be an incredibly effective addition to passenger cabin safety in motor vehicles.

Once an airbag has been deployed in an accident it must be replaced and repaired so that the occupant is protected in the event of another crash. But a recent report has discovered a disturbing trend of fraud where repair shops fail to replace and repair the airbag. Proposed legislation in California seeks to impose a fine and/or prison time on auto mechanics who do not properly replace airbags.

The investigation found that some repair shops were telling customers that the airbag had been replaced when in fact it had not been. Instead the investigation discovered some shops that were filling the airbag compartment with aluminum cans, paper and other refuse.

The failure of an airbag due to this type of fraudulent repair can have catastrophic results. In one case a couple lost their son after a fraudulent airbag repair. Rather than replace the airbag the repair shop simply stuffed paper into the airbag compartment in the steering wheel. Other fatal crash have involved simply cutting out the old airbag and reinstalling a new dashboard over the top.

The proposed law in the California Legislature would impose a fine of $5,000 and/or a year of prison time on mechanics who commit this type of fraud.

Source: San Luis Tribune "Tough airbag-fraud bill awaits Brown," Sept 12, 2011