Malfunctioning Airbags Can Cause Serious Injuries
Posted on July 17th, 2019 by Zane Cagle
Auto manufacturers created airbags to keep drivers and passengers in cars safe. When they work correctly, airbags help prevent car accident injuries and keep some injuries from becoming more severe.
However, airbags don’t always work as intended, which can cause extra injuries for you if you’re involved in a car accident. It’s unfortunate when the item designed to protect you and reduce your injuries causes you more harm than you would have suffered without it. When this happens to you, you have legal options.
History of Airbags
An airbag is a safety device that is activated by special sensors in your vehicle. Airbags are also a fairly new safety device. While airbags first found their way into vehicles in the 1970s, lawmakers did not require them in all new vehicles until 1998.
Car makers place airbags in many areas of cars, including:
- Steering wheel
- Door frames
- Above windows (side curtain)
- Side impact
- Rear seat
Airbags deploy when special sensors in the vehicle are impacted; these sensors are located in the bumpers and side impact areas of your vehicle. They respond to impact, whether that is a collision with another vehicle or with some other object, like a tree or building.
Airbags are designed to work alongside other vehicle safety features to reduce injuries in the event of a car accident. When seat belts and airbags are used effectively, they work together to increase your likelihood of surviving a car accident.
The intent of the airbag is to help keep you safe in a car accident. When an airbag fails or works improperly, you can sustain serious injuries, oftentimes more serious than what would have happened if the airbag wasn’t in your car at all.
How Airbags Fail
Airbags can fail in several ways. Each time an airbag fails, it can cause you additional injuries in your car accident. There are three main types of airbag failures:
- Delayed deployment. When the sensors in your car detect an impact, they should immediately activate the airbags. If you’ve seen slow-motion videos of airbags going off, you know how quickly this happens. Even a delay of mere tenths of a second can cause injuries. If the airbag doesn’t deploy immediately as designed, it won’t fully protect you from the impact.
- Failure to deploy. While a delay in deployment will cause injuries, the airbag can still provide you with some protection. But when an airbag does not deploy at all, you risk even more serious injuries. Airbags are meant to protect you in the event of a collision, so when they don’t deploy, you have no protection from the impact. Your face may slam into the steering wheel or crash into a window, absorbing the entire impact of the car accident.
- Unexpected deployment. Sometimes, the sensors in your car malfunction and deploy airbags when you’re not in an accident. Because this happens unexpectedly, it may cause broken bones or head trauma, and it can even cause a car accident because you are so startled by the deployment.
You expect your car’s airbags to work properly. When the airbags deploy without any collision, this can cause you and your passengers serious harm. When the airbags don’t deploy correctly or at all when you are in a car accident, this can increase the severity of your injuries. And when this happens, you deserve compensation for your injuries. You didn’t cause the airbag failure, and you should not have to pay for any of the medical costs associated with your injuries.
Unfortunately, some airbags are installed with defects. Under the law, there are three types of defects that lead to liability:
- Manufacturing defect. These defects occur during the manufacturing of the airbag, and may include poor assembly, bad materials, and/or improper installation. Manufacturing defects usually only occur in one vehicle, rather than in a whole line of vehicles.
- Design defect. These are defects in the design of an airbag. In other words, an airbag’s design is inherently flawed. Design defects can result in recalls if they threaten the safety of every driver and passenger of a particular make and model of vehicle.
- Marketing defect. This is also called failure to warn. Companies can prevent or reduce the severity of injuries if they proactively warn consumers about an airbag’s dangers.
When you or a loved one is injured by an airbag, you deserve to understand what caused this injury. If a defect caused your injury or your injury could have been otherwise prevented, you should hold the negligent party accountable. Look for a firm with the experience you need to hold the manufacturer liable and make sure you receive compensation for your medical bills.
Like any other product liability claim, it is critical to secure the failed airbag and vehicle after injury. Once the vehicle is destroyed, it is very difficult to prove that the airbag in the vehicle failed.
The Largest Airbag Recall in U.S. History
Recalls happen. When an airbag is defective, the manufacturer might have to issue a recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has labeled a recent Takata recall as the largest and most complex safety recall in United States history, as the recall involves vehicles made by nineteen different car manufacturers.
In this recall, the automakers must replace front airbags in vehicles made between 2002 and 2015. Some of these airbags may explode without warning and cause serious injuries, even when there is no car accident. The cause of this recall is the propellant used to inflate the airbag rapidly. Depending on temperature and age, the propellant can inflate the airbag without being in a collision. To date, eleven people have died because of these airbags deploying without warning. This recall is expected to involve more than 40 million vehicles.
Yet another airbag recall came soon afterward—ZF-TRW airbags installed in 12.3 million Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mitsubishi, and Toyota vehicles and that may have killed eight persons.
As with car accident injuries, your airbag injuries will depend on many factors. If you’re involved in a car accident and your airbags don’t deploy, you may suffer severe injuries. But that doesn’t mean another type of defective airbag deployment won’t injure you. Airbags release at around 200 miles per hour. Even when an airbag works as intended, you can still end up with some minor injuries from the impact.
Common airbag-related injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from an airbag, you deserve an aggressive and seasoned legal team on your side. You need to hire an attorney that will be sure that the vehicle with the faulty airbag is secured and not destroyed. In order to prove that product failed, you must save the product.
Steps to Take When You’re Injured by an Airbag
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being injured by an airbag, there are steps you should take immediately after the accident, including:
- Write detailed notes as soon as possible after the accident. Doing this will ensure that your memory is fresh and you’re not incorrectly remembering any details about the accident. This should also include taking pictures of the airbag and the accident scene. When you work with us, we’ll want to review your notes and your images to get a better understanding of what occurred.
- Record your injuries. You want to take pictures of your injuries so that you have a detailed record of them. These images should also include your injuries from the car accident itself, as it’s sometimes challenging to distinguish between the injuries caused by the car accident versus the airbag.
- Don’t get your car fixed, yet. This is crucial. If someone fixes your car before it’s examined by an investigator or by your attorney, you risk losing important evidence regarding how the airbag failed. If your car is taken away following an accident, make sure you know where it is and it is kept, so that your attorney can go view the car and collect evidence. The vehicle with the faulty airbag must be kept in order to prove that the product (airbags) were faulty.
- Contact a product liability lawyer. You should focus on your recovery following a car accident. Finding a skilled personal injury lawyer who has successfully helped victims of airbag injuries should not be your focus. Find a law firm that can help you determine the value of your claim and work hard to help you recover what you need to get better. You will want to hire an attorney immediately to represent you and secure the vehicle.
Take these steps after you’re injured by an airbag in a car accident. Protecting all relevant evidence is extremely helpful and beneficial to your personal injury lawyer. We use this information to support your injury claim against a manufacturer and the insurance company to ensure that they cover your medical bills.
Damages for Your Injuries
The full value will depend on many factors. Give yourself the best chance of recovering the full value of your claim by finding a product liability lawyer who can try to recover compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of companionship
Your success depends in part on the skill and experience of your product liability lawyer and their expertise in pursuing these claims. Whether we can settle your case early or need to go all the way to trial to get the full value of your claim, we will fight on your behalf, because we know this matters and will help you pay for the services and medicine necessary to recover.
Many insurance companies will offer you a quick initial settlement. They know injured victims need the money to pay mounting medical bills, so they offer quick cash. The problem is that this initial offer generally does not compensate you fully for your injuries. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not paying claims. So if you get a quick offer, make sure you speak with a trusted attorney before you sign the agreement.
If you sign the agreement, you will waive your right to future claims for further medical treatment. In a serious injury, this is critical as permanent injuries require ongoing and future medical treatment and expenses.
It’s hard to estimate the full value of your claim very early in the process. That’s why it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can assist you with a good estimate of the full value of your claim and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. The insurance company’s first offer likely won’t include compensation for any future costs. If you have rehabilitation or additional medical needs that come up related to your airbag injury, you’ll be on the hook to pay those costs out of pocket. We hate to see injured individuals having to pay for injuries that they didn’t cause.
We are passionate about protecting the legal rights, financial interests, and physical and emotional wellbeing of our clients. You didn’t cause your injuries, so you shouldn’t bear any responsibility for the medical costs associated with those injuries.
Contact a Product Liability Attorney for More Information
If you or a loved one was injured by an airbag, whether in a car accident or by the airbag alone, you deserve a lawyer that you can trust to help you move forward with your life—someone who can focus on the legal complexities, while you focus on getting better. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, and only get paid if you collect damages.