More than 200,000 newer Hyundai vehicles are plagued by a defect that can cause a vital seat belt part to explode, a proposed class action lawsuit says.
The 46-page complaint out of Florida was filed in the wake of a May 2022 recall of roughly 239,000 Hyundais in the U.S. whose seat belt pretensioners, which are designed to retract and tighten a seat belt the moment a crash happens, could explode and scatter metal fragments throughout the vehicle.
According to the lawsuit, the cause of the seat belt pretensioner problem remains unknown.
Be sure to scroll down to see which Hyundai vehicle models are mentioned in the lawsuit and what drivers need to do next.
The filing alleges Hyundai Motor Company has known of the seat belt pretensioner defect since at least September 2021, when it was informed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of a crash involving a 2021 Elantra. During the incident, the suit says, the driver-side seat belt pretensioner “deployed abnormally,” propelling metal fragments throughout the cabin and injuring a passenger’s leg.
Per the suit, Hyundai was informed months later of a similar incident in Puerto Rico, and again of a pretensioner explosion that reportedly occurred in Singapore earlier this year.
“Defendants knew or should have known of the Seat Belt Defect much earlier due to pre-production testing, failure mode analysis, and reports to authorized dealers, repair centers, and complaints to the NHTSA,” the complaint charges. “Despite having knowledge of the exploding seat belt pretensioners, Hyundai concealed this information, delayed issuing a recall, and still to this day has not sent notification letters to owners of the defective vehicles.”
“An inherent safety risk”
The lawsuit contends that although Hyundai touts its vehicles as offering “untouched and elite” safety, among other superlatives, the cars ultimately “have not lived up to their promise of being the best in safety.” Indeed, the case asserts that the seat belt pretensioner issue poses an inherent and dangerous safety risk to drivers and passengers.
“Rather than ‘add[ing] ten years to [their] life,” the complaint says, “Plaintiffs and the Class are at an increased risk for crashes, severe injury, and death.”
According to the suit, the pretensioner is the part of a vehicle’s seat belt system that draws back the belt to keep it firm while the car is in motion. This component is also responsible for locking the belt during a collision to keep the occupant in position, the case adds.
To do this, the pretensioner, once sensors detect an accident, uses an explosive charge to initiate a concealed piston, which then drives the spool of the seat belt fabric rapidly around, removing any slack, the lawsuit relays.
Per the case, it’s this pyrotechnic-type seat belt pretensioner that can deploy “abnormally” during a crash and send metal fragments throughout the vehicle compartment.
The lawsuit argues that Hyundai’s recall was “untimely and ineffective” at addressing the exploding seat belt pretensioner issue and remedying the “significant losses” incurred by drivers. The suit alleges Hyundai concealed what it knew about the defect to “maintain a market for their vehicles, to protect profits, and to avoid recalls that would hurt the brand’s reputation and have significant costs.”
Had consumers known of the safety issue, the suit says, they never would have bought the vehicles or would have paid substantially less for them.
Which Hyundai vehicles are mentioned in the lawsuit?
The Hyundai vehicle models allegedly equipped with defective seat belt pretensioners include:
- 2019-2022 Hyundai Accent;
- 2021-2023 Hyundai Elantra; and
- 2021-2022 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid.
The complaint states that the above list of vehicles may expand upon further investigation by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
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Who does the suit look to cover?
The lawsuit looks to represent all individuals and entities who bought or leased any of the Hyundai vehicle models listed above in the United States or its territories.
I drive one of the Hyundais mentioned in the lawsuit. What’s next?
The NHTSA recall report states that all affected vehicle owners will be notified via first-class mail with instructions to bring their car to an authorized dealer to have their seat belt pretensioner’s micro gas generator and delivery pipe secured with a cap to prevent abnormal deployment. The fix will be offered for free, regardless of whether a vehicle is still covered under warranty.
Moreover, Hyundai will provide vehicle owners with reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred from fixing the seat belt pretensioner. To contact Hyundai customer service, call 1-855-371-9460 and reference recall number 229.
As for the lawsuit, there’s generally nothing a consumer needs to do to “join” or make sure they’re “included” in a class action after it’s initially filed. It’s only if and when a case settles that they might need to act, typically by submitting a claim form online or by mail.
Should this case settle at some point in the future and you’re “covered,” you would most likely receive a notice by mail and/or email. This document will include information on how and by when to file a claim, your legal rights, any proof you might need to submit, and more.
Most proposed class actions take time to work their way through the legal process, usually toward a settlement, dismissal or arbitration. For now, Hyundai drivers, and anyone else interested in class action lawsuit and settlement news, should sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter.