In these tough economic times, many consumers are buying used cars, versus new cars in an effort to save money. However, I have seen cases where a consumer buys a late-model car, that has been in an accident, and the airbag has been deployed, but the airbag was not properly replaced. In some of the most shocking cases, the original airbag is cut out of the vehicle, and the empty compatment is stuffed with rags, foam or some other filled material, and then the airbag cover is glued back into place, and concealed by repairing the vinyl dashboard or steering wheel material.
A recent invetigative report on a Michgan TV station highlights this kind of fraud, but in Michigan, it is not a crime to do this. Watch the video here.
In Florida, it is a crime to install a junk-filled airbag or to conceal the fact that the airbag has been deployed. Consumers may not become aware that their car does not have a functioning airbag until it is too late. Dealers that sell cars without functioning airbags can easily claim that they either disclosed this to the buyer at the time of the sale, or that the buyer knew that the airbag had been deployed but did not want to pay the extra expense of having it replaced properly.
Florida Statutes Section 860.146, makes it a crime to purchase, sell, or install on any vehicle any fake airbag or junk-filled airbag compartment.
Fake airbags; junk-filled airbag compartment.—(1) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Fake airbag" means any item other than an airbag that was designed in accordance with federal safety regulations for a given make, model, and year of motor vehicle as part of a motor vehicle inflatable restraint system.
(b) “Junk-filled airbag compartment" means an airbag compartment that is filled with any substance that does not function in the same manner or to the same extent as an airbag to protect vehicle occupants in a vehicle crash. The term does not include a compartment from which an airbag has deployed if there is no concealment of the deployment.
(2) It is unlawful for anyone to knowingly purchase, sell, or install on any vehicle any fake airbag or junk-filled airbag compartment. Any person who violates this subsection commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.