An airbag is a safety device which is placed in vehicles to reduce injuries during an auto collision. Airbags are fabric devices which fill with air in order to provide a cushion for the driver or passengers in a vehicle.
Airbags work in conjunction with the seat belt and other sensor devices which provide cushioning at the appropriate time. Certain vehicles have up to four airbags, which include driver side bags and passenger side bags.
These are numerous types of airbags, including:
- Front airbags;
- Side-collision airbags; and
- Other types of airbags.
What are Airbag Injuries?
Federal safety standards require all vehicles to be equipped with airbags. In addition to saving lives of individuals in the vehicle, an airbag can help prevent serious injuries, especially if they are used in conjunction with seatbelts.
Although an airbag is intended to protect against injuries resulting from an automobile accident, in some cases, they end up causing injuries. In some rare cases, they even cause death.
What is the Problem with Airbags?
There are several reasons why an airbag injury may occur. Some reasons involve not taking the proper precautions.
For example, an airbag injury may occur if an individual sits too close to the steering wheel, or within 10 inches. Other reasons may involve a defective airbag.
How Can an Airbag Be Defective?
There are several different ways in which an airbag may be defective. For example, there may be issues with:
- The manufacturer’s design of the airbag itself;
- The production of the airbag; and
- The installation of the airbag.
If an individual is injured by a defective airbag, they may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages they suffered.
What are Some Examples of Defective Airbags?
In some cases, it is obvious that an airbag was defective. In other cases, it is more difficult to tell.
Examples of circumstances where airbags may be defective include with the airbag:
- Deploys with too much force;
- Deploys too slowly;
- Deploys at the wrong angle;
- Deployed unnecessarily in a minor accident;
- Did not deploy when necessary; or
- Made of dangerous materials, as with the Takata brand airbags.
What are Some Common Airbag Injuries?
Airbags are motor vehicle safety devices. Airbags contain sensors, called the airbag ECUs, which signal the airbag to inflate.
Inflated airbags provide a cushion which restrains individuals from contacting parts of the vehicle in the event of an accident, including:
- The wheel;
- The dashboard; or
- The windshield.
The law required vehicles to be equipped with an airbag for the operator of the vehicle. This airbag is in the steering wheel.
In many vehicles, there is also a passenger seat airbag. It is important to be aware that airbags may cause injuries.
Airbag related injuries may occur if an occupant of a vehicle is not properly positioned. These injuries may also occur if the sensors for the airbag malfunction.
Airbag sensor malfunctions can cause the airbag to inflate too late or too early. Injuries may also occur if an airbag fails to deflate or if an individual in the vehicle is exposed to the chemicals in the airbag.
An injury caused by an airbag may include burns or abrasions to the face as well as neck injuries. Under certain circumstances, individuals who are injured by an airbag may file a lawsuit in court and obtain damages, or monetary compensation.
Why do Airbags Cause Injuries?
An airbag may be hazardous for several reasons. Numerous airbag inflators contain sodium azide, which is a chemical substance.
This substance makes the gas which is used to inflate the airbag. When an airbag deploys. The sodium azide is supposed to convert to nitrogen gas, which is not harmful.
If the sodium azide instead escapes the airbag, it forms the chemical hydrazoic acid. Both hydrazoic acid and sodium azide are toxic.
In other words, if either of those substances are inhaled, an individual may become ill. The laws of physics may also explain why an airbag may cause injuries.
Driver seat airbags are located in the horn pad of steering wheels, which is between where the driver grips the wheel with both hands. Because of this, the driver may experience injuries to their wrist or arm when an airbag deploys.
An airbag that functions properly is rapidly deployed and with explosive force. If the driver is not using their lap seat belt or shoulder seat belt, the speed of the deployment may result in the driver sustaining significant injuries, which may range from mild friction burns to detached retinas, or even impact death.
An injury which is caused by a defective airbag manufacturing, whether the defect is in the inflator, a sensor, or other location, is not common. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that defective airbags that were produced by the Takata corporation alone were linked to 24 deaths worldwide.
Injuries which are caused by defective airbag manufacturing has, according to the NHTSA, allegedly been the cause of injuries to at least 250 individuals in the United States. These were caused by exploding Takata inflators, both azide and non-azide.
Over ten million vehicles that have defective Takata airbags have been recalled, which prevents that number from being much higher. This recall was prompted by a flaw in the manufacture of these airbags.
What Are Airbag Recalls?
Although an airbag may help prevent injuries, it may also be the cause of injuries in some cases. An airbag injury or defect may cause a manufacturer to issue a recall of a vehicle.
In these cases, the manufacturer may offer the purchaser a free repair for the issue or they may offer other remedies, including a replacement of the vehicle or compensation for the owner’s losses. Airbag recalls are a common cause of car defect recalls.
Airbag recalls may also lead to lawsuits, especially when there were serious injuries or there were significant economic losses associated with the defective air bag.
When Might an Air Bag Recall Be Necessary?
An airbag recall may be necessary when an airbag has caused serious injuries to the driver or to passengers or if the airbag poses a potential for danger or injury. For example, an airbag recall may be issued if:
- The airbag fails to deploy upon impact when needed;
- The airbag deploys without warning when no impact has occurred, which can result in serious injury such as broken bones, etc.;
- The airbag is late in deploying;
- There are rips, tears, or other defects in the bag fabric; and
- An airbag is missing, for example, there was a failure to install or replace the airbag.
In the majority of cases, an airbag is programmed to deploy during a collision where a vehicle is traveling at a certain speed, such as 15mph deceleration speed. The vehicle will usually have a number of mechanisms which help sense when the airbag should deploy and inflate.
These mechanisms include:
- Electronic sensors;
- Wheel and tire sensors;
- Gas and brake sensors; and
- Other sensors.
Airbag recalls may also be caused by the failure of any of these sensing systems.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Airbag Recall Claim?
An airbag recall may involve very serious safety risks and injuries. It may be helpful to consult with a car accident lawyer if you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to an airbag recall.
Your attorney will be able to provide you with guidance regarding submitting a claim or filing a lawsuit. You may be entitled to compensatory damages for injuries, losses, or other expenses you incurred as a result of an airbag issue.