An airbag is a motor vehicle safety device. The airbag contains a sensor, called the airbag ECU, which signals the airbag to inflate. The inflated airbag provides a cushion, restraining individuals from contacting the wheel, dashboard, or windshield, in the event of an accident. The law requires motor vehicles to be equipped with an airbag for the driver. This airbag is contained in the steering wheel. Many vehicles have a passenger-seat airbag.

Airbags may cause injury. Airbag-caused injuries can occur if an occupant is not properly positioned. These injuries also occur if the airbag sensors malfunction; a sensor malfunction can cause inflation to occur too late or too early. Injuries can also occur if the airbag fails to deflate, or if an individual is exposed to chemicals in the airbag. 

Airbag-caused injuries include abrasions or burns to the face, and neck injuries. Under certain circumstances, an individual injured by an airbag can file a lawsuit in money court and obtain damages (monetary compensation). 

Why do Airbags Cause Injuries?

Airbags are hazardous for several reasons.  Many airbag inflators contain sodium azide, a chemical substance. This substance forms the gas used to inflate the airbag. When the airbag deploys, sodium azide should convert to nitrogen gas. Nitrogen gas is not harmful. If the sodium azide escapes the airbag, it forms a chemical called hydrazoic acid. Released sodium azide and hydrazoic acid are both toxic. If either substance is inhaled, a person can become ill.  

The basic laws of physics also account for why airbags cause injuries. The driver seat airbag is located in the horn pad of the steering wheel.  Its position is firmly between the parts of the wheel that the driver grips with both hands. Therefore, a driver may experience injuries to the wrist or arm when the airbag deploys.

Airbags that function properly, are rapidly deployed, with explosive force. If a driver is not using a lap seat belt or a shoulder seat belt, the speed of the deployment can result in the driver sustaining significant injuries, from as mild as friction burns to as serious as detached retinas and impact deaths.

An injury caused by a defective airbag manufacture, whether due to a defective inflator, sensor, or other mechanical defect, is not a common occurrence.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), defective airbags produced by the Takata corporation alone were linked to 24 deaths worldwide.  Injury caused by defective airbag manufacture has, according to the NHTSA, allegedly caused at least 250 people in the United States to be injured by exploding Takata inflators (azide and non-azide). Over ten million vehicles with defective Takata airbags have been recalled, preventing that number from being much higher. A flaw in the manufacture of these airbags prompted the recall.

Can I Sue if I Suffered any Injuries Due to an Airbag Being Deployed?

An individual who sustains injuries due to a defective airbag may sue the manufacturer of the product on one of several product liability bases. A lawsuit may be brought alleging a design defect. A design defect is a defect that inheres in the design of the product itself. Alternatively, a lawsuit alleging may be brought. In a manufacturing defect product liability case, the design is adequate; however, a defect is produced in the manufacturing process.

If a sufficient number of individuals claim to have been damaged by the same allegedly defective airbag in the same manner, with the same alleged defect, a court may certify the prospective case as a class action proceeding. In a class action, each individual who claims to have been injured is a plaintiff. The individuals who begin the litigation are the class representatives. If the class prevails, the representatives receive a certain amount. The remainder of the damages are usually awarded equally to other members of the class.  

Typically, the attorney representing the class does so on a contingency basis. This means that if (and only if) the class prevails, the attorney will receive a specific percentage of the damages as the attorney’s fee. The remainder of the damages go to the class representatives and other class members. Damages consist of losses that can be measured in money. For example, damages are awarded to compensate plaintiffs for medical treatment and prescription drugs.

Do I Need an Attorney if I Need Help with an Airbag Injury Claim?

If you believe you have been injured by a defective airbag, you should contact an airbag injury attorney. This attorney is a type of personal injury lawyer

Personal injury attorneys represent individuals who claim injuries due to the negligence of others, including the negligence of airbag manufacturers in the design or manufacturing process. An experienced personal injury lawyer near you can evaluate the facts of your case and advise you how to proceed.