Salvage yards and repair shops can use potentially deadly Takata air bag inflators when they repair used cars, then sell those cars to new customers. The Associated Press has found that federal laws don't prevent reuse of air bags and other parts, and states don't have laws preventing it either.
In the Las Vegas case, the woman's family bought a used 2002 Honda Accord but didn't know it had been wrecked in Arizona and repaired with a faulty Takata inflator. That inflator blew apart in a minor crash, with metal fragments striking her in the neck not far from her carotid artery.
There's no way you can be certain that a used car doesn't have a defective part. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself when buying a used car:
CHECK THE HISTORY: Services like Carfax and Autocheck keep track of major repairs made to cars. If a car has been wrecked and many parts were replaced, you might want to consider another car. Both services charge a fee for detailed checks.
CHECK THE TITLE: Many small dealers and others will buy cars from insurance companies that were written off as total losses. They then fix and resell them. But they can use faulty parts in the repairs. Check the car's title. Most states require totaled cars to get a new title showing it has been salvaged or rebuilt. Carfax and Autocheck also have a car's title history. Although some cars with salvage titles can be fine, it's wise to be wary of them.
ASK FOR RECEIPTS: If you find a car that's had extensive repairs, ask the seller for receipts to prove that new parts were used to fix it. If they can't provide receipts, it's best to find another car.
GET AN INSPECTION: Take the car to an independent mechanic to check for any signs that it's been wrecked and repaired.
Source: Carfax.com, Center for Auto Safety, Associated Press research