Airbags are an essential and often life saving safety feature in most modern vehicles. In an auto accident, they are meant to lower the risk of hitting your head or upper body on the vehicle’s dashboard.
However, airbags deploy at an average speed of one hundred miles per hour. Besides this, they can be covered in dust, as well as chemicals, that assist in deploying the airbag. Both hitting an object at such a high speed, and being exposed to dust and chemicals, could result in personal injury.
Though these injuries are fairly rare, airbag injuries can be very serious. Furthermore, since so many body parts are exposed to an airbag’s deployment path, the likelihood of becoming injured should the airbag deploy is obviously increased. Additionally, if a person is not properly wearing their safety belt, the risk of injury greatly increases.
Some common airbag deployment related injuries include:
- Potential burns to the face, or other body parts, due to the fact that the chemicals used to inflate the airbags can also heat up the airbags;
- Airbag deployment issues or malfunctions;
- Eye and facial injuries, especially if the airbag deployment malfunctions and your head is right in front of the airbag when it deploys;
- Head, neck, and back trauma;
- Abrasions and bruising to the face and upper body;
- Broken bones;
- Concussion or loss of consciousness;
- Brain swelling or bruising, or compression;
- Skin or throat irritation as a result of the dust and/or chemicals released into the air by the airbag’s deployment; and
- Hearing loss.
The primary cause for airbag deployment injuries is speed. The sheer speed at which they impact human bodies is mostly responsible for any injuries caused. Airbags deploy very rapidly, with some reaching speeds approaching 200 MPH. Hitting an object while moving at such great speed will obviously cause injury. Newer vehicle safety regulations have reduced the energy with which the airbags deploy, thereby reducing the likelihood of speed related injuries.
Another major cause for airbag deployment injuries occurs when crash sensor malfunctions. Airbags are connected to a crash sensor, which initiates the deployment if the vehicle experiences a crash severe enough to trigger the sensor. Crash sensor issues may include:
- The sensor malfunctioning could deploy the airbag at the incorrect time, such as deploying the airbag when there is no crash, or deploying too late;
- The sensor failing to deploy the airbag at all during a crash; or
- The sensor may deploy one airbag but not others.
Although it seems like airbags could do more harm than good, with the advancement of government regulations on airbags, the risk of injury and death and have decreased. Here are some statistics you may consider:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that in 25 years of use, airbags have saved roughly 40,000 lives; or
- Side airbags with head protection reduce risk of death in driver’s side crashes by 37%, and in SUVs, by 52%.
The misuse of airbags is a major contributing factor to injuries and fatalities, particularly in infants and children. It is important to properly secure car seats and booster seats, and to properly utilize safety restraints such as seat belts, in order to avoid or minimize airbag related injuries.
If you were involved in an accident and the airbag malfunctioned, you may have a personal injury claim. However, you will need to prove that some part of the airbag was defective when it left the manufacturer, or that the airbag’s design made it unreasonably dangerous.
Defective products fall into three main categories:
- Defective Manufacture: This is a type of products liability claim when an injury occurs due to defectively manufactured product. Some error was made when manufacturing the product, and this error was made at the factory while the item was being produced;
- Defective Design: A defectively designed product has a bad design which has caused injury. The entire line of products have a bad design that dangerous for the average consumer to use. You will need to prove that the product has a defective design, the design is dangerous for use, and the manufacturer could have utilized a safer design; or
- Failure to Provide Adequate Warnings or Instructions: This occurs when a product fails to have visible warning labels displayed, that warns the consumer of the possible dangers associated with the use of the product.
Product liability law determines which party or parties are responsible for defective or dangerous products. State laws typically dictate product liability claims; there is also a set of commercial statutes in each state which are based off of the Uniform Commercial Code, and contain warranty rules which affect product liability.
Any party in the product’s chain of distribution may be held liable for a product defect. Among those that may be potential defendants in a product liability claim are:
- The manufacturer, such as an automobile manufacturer or the airbag manufacturer;
- The party that assembles or installs the product;
- The manufacturer of the component parts;
- The wholesaler;
- The retailer who sold the product to the customer; or
- Anyone who was tasked with inspection, maintenance, or replacement.
Remedies in an airbag injury case typically involve a damages award, which will help the defendant recover costs and losses caused by the injury.
If you have been injured by an airbag deployment, it is important to contact a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. There are several factors involved in such cases, and you will need to prove that the airbag was actually defective in order to have a solid claim.
An experienced personal injury attorney will help you determine if you have a claim, who to sue if so, and represent you in court as needed.