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Everything You Should Know About Airbag Deployment Injuries and Claims

Dec 06, 2021 Airbag Cases
  1. 1. Are Airbags Dangerous? How They Work and Why Injuries Sometimes Happen
  2. 2. Common Airbag Injuries
  3. 3. Who Is at Fault for Airbag Injuries?
  4. 4. Factors that Can Impact Your Airbag Injury Settlement Amount
  5. 5. Crosley Law Knows How to Investigate Airbag Injury Cases

Everything You Should Know About Airbag Deployment Injuries and Claims

Airbags were invented to protect vehicle inhabitants in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Most of the time they do a good job, reducing fatality risk by 30 to 50% for drivers and passengers.

However, airbags themselves sometimes cause enough harm to require a product liability or personal injury claim. Whether it’s due to a malfunction of the airbag or simply the fact that it was there, an injury from an airbag can complicate your auto accident case and claim.  

This post will outline all you need to know about common airbag deployment injuries, who is at fault, and how it might affect your settlement amount. We’ll also explain how a personal injury attorney can help you navigate your airbag deployment injury case.  

Are Airbags Dangerous? How They Work and Why Injuries Sometimes Happen

The short answer is that the concept of airbags, and most airbags in and of themselves, are not dangerous. But, depending on the specific airbag and situation, they can become dangerous. Let’s explore how this happens.

How Do Airbags Reduce Injury?

Here’s how airbags work: Your vehicle contains a crash sensor that detects collision, as well as how fast you’re moving when it happens. If you’re going fast enough that the crash may be severe (typically around 10-15 miles per hour), a bag made of light material will deploy to absorb impact between people in the vehicle and the vehicle itself.

Usually, airbags are in the steering wheel, the glove compartment area (for the front seat passenger), by the windows, and in the front seats (for the back seat passengers).

To fill the airbag, inflators send out gas (usually nitrogen or argon). Although these gases have the potential to cause serious injuries, they are essential to ensuring the airbag inflates quickly enough during a collision and then deflates almost immediately afterward.

Why Airbag Deployment Injuries Happen

To be effective, airbags must rapidly inflate and then deflate almost as quickly. In a fraction of a second, an airbag can fly out at 200 miles per hour and exert 2,000 pounds of force. When it deflates, it may leave behind gases that irritate the eyes and skin.

People sitting low in the seat or close to the steering wheel are at greater risk of injuries to the head, neck, and chest, even when the airbag deploys exactly as it should.

While engineers have found ways to make airbags safer over the decades, the deployment process will always come with injury risks.

Beyond the risks of proper airbag deployment are the larger ones of faulty airbags that don’t do their job. This could happen because of:

  • A defective and dangerous inflation system, like those in ARC and Takata airbags
  • The bag itself has a flaw, such as a hole or tear
  • The sensor does not release or inflate the airbag upon collision
  • The sensor deploys the airbag too late upon collision
  • The airbag is deployed or inflated without a collision

If an airbag doesn’t inflate due to a leak or faulty sensor, or it inflates after the collision, the chances for severe injuries to your head or torso are far greater.

Certain airbags may malfunction after exposure to extreme heat or humidity, as happened with the infamous Takata airbag recall. Some of these airbags exploded upon deployment, killing more than 20 people and injuring hundreds.

While engineers have found ways to make airbags safer over the decades, the deployment process will always come with injury risks.

An airbag that inflates when you don’t need it is another problem. The speed and force of the bag may injure vehicle occupants and cause an accident.   

A vehicle occupant is at greater risk for any airbag injury if they are:

  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • A child, especially if they’re under 12 and in the front seat
  • Sitting forward in the seat (not with their back against the seat)
  • Shorter than the average adult (less than 5 feet 4 inches)

RELATED: Takata Airbags: Dangerous Defects and What to Do About Them

Common Airbag Injuries

Car accidents happen so quickly; it can be difficult to tell exactly what happened and what caused specific types of injuries. Airbag injuries largely depend on how the person is sitting and where the airbag is (frontal airbag, side passenger airbag, etc.).

However, driver and passenger airbags tend to cause certain kinds of serious injuries:

  • Sprains and breaks in the wrists and hands
  • Bruising and contusions on the face, chest, and arms
  • Whiplash-related injuries to the neck and spine
  • Concussion, swelling, and other brain injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Injuries of the eyes and ears (including sight and hearing loss)
  • Rib fractures and other broken bones
  • Burns, lacerations, or abrasions on the skin from airbag fabric friction
  • Asthma attacks or other respiratory reactions to airbag gas

In the worst-case scenario, a faulty airbag deployment could result in fatal injuries and death.

RELATED: An Intersection Collision, Airbag Defect, and Eye Injury: Priscilla’s Story

Who Is at Fault for Airbag Injuries?

In a car accident, one or more drivers will be cited as at-fault for the accident itself. In Texas, injured parties may seek compensation from the at-fault driver for their losses (as long as they were less than 51% at fault for the accident, according to Texas’ comparative fault rule).

However, if a faulty airbag or sensor caused some of your injuries, you may be able to file a claim against whomever is responsible for that defect. Your attorney will help you determine who that is, but possibilities include:

  • Automaker
  • Airbag manufacturer and supplier
  • Auto distributor
  • Specialist who fixed or reinstalled your airbag      

Figuring out which of these is at fault will depend on your specific injuries and the reason for the airbag’s improper deployment (or lack thereof). An experienced lawyer will have the resources to investigate here.

If a faulty airbag or sensor caused some of your injuries, you may be able to file a claim against whomever is responsible for that defect. Your attorney will help you determine who that is.

Reusing an airbag, or installing an aftermarket airbag, is never recommended. They aren’t guaranteed to work properly even without damage or defect, and using them is likely to hurt any claim you might make against the manufacturer, supplier, or technician.

If, through investigation, the airbag is found to work properly, or you were sitting too far forward or weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you won’t be able to make a claim involving the airbag.

Factors that Can Impact Your Airbag Injury Settlement Amount

Just like the insurance company of the at-fault driver, the insurers of those responsible for an airbag malfunction will want to settle the claim as quickly and cheaply as possible.

It’s always in your best interest to wait until your lawyer can talk to the insurance companies and negotiate a fair settlement. They will also anticipate anything that might affect your settlement amount, such as:

  • Not being able to prove that the injuries were caused by the airbag
  • Not using your seatbelt
  • Allowing a child under 12 to be in the front seat
  • Used or aftermarket airbags
  • Not following the instructions of an airbag recall notice
  • Sitting too close to the steering wheel or dashboard

Whatever the circumstances of your airbag-related injuries, working with an attorney will improve your chances of a fair settlement. Personal injury lawyers have access to resources and experts who will present your case in the best light possible.

RELATED: Don’t Miss Out on Product Liability Compensation After a Car Wreck

Crosley Law Knows How to Investigate Airbag Injury Cases

If you or a loved one were injured by an airbag, or you’re dealing with airbag related deaths, it’s time to talk to an experienced attorney. The team at Crosley Law has handled airbag deployment injury cases before, and is ready to thoroughly investigate your claim.

To set up your free consultation with our legal team, call our office at (210) LAW-3000 | (210) 529-3000 or fill in the simple contact form on our website.

References

Airbags. (2021, March). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. Retrieved from https://www.iihs.org/topics/airbags

Takata Recall Spotlight. (n.d.). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/takata-recall-spotlight

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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