When heading out on our morning commute to work, we trust vehicle safety features to keep us free from harm while on the road. Seatbelts and airbags are some of the devices that are built-in to our cars so that we have a better chance of minimizing the risk of serious injury when in a collision. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has conducted studies that show this reduction to be as high as 32% to prevent vehicular fatalities. But, unfortunately, the very devices designed to save us can also cause significant injury to our bodies.
Despite this risk, injuries sustained from an inflated airbag are typically not nearly as severe as a car crash that didn't have this as a vehicle's safety feature. Still, questions must be asked as to whether it deployed correctly and if there was a defect in its manufacturing that hurt the victim unnecessarily. If it's determined there is an issue with how an airbag operated during a collision, filing an airbag lawsuit against the manufacturer may be appropriate. This is in addition to any action being taken against the negligent driver who caused the accident.
Lawsuits Involving Defective Airbags
If you believe your airbag didn't function properly during a motor vehicle collision, which resulted in your being injured or possibly killing a passenger in your car, you may have a case against the manufacturer. The attorneys of Morgan & Morgan represent thousands of individuals and their families in airbag lawsuits every year. We frequently see the following types of bodily injuries because of the following three situations:
- The airbag failed to go off when it was supposed to, or,
- It went off went it shouldn't have done so, or,
- The airbag device operated incorrectly with too much force, not enough air, or delayed-release
One of the most notable examples of defective manufacturing is the Takata airbag. The devices made by this company had a higher risk of exploding and seriously maiming or killing the occupants with its shrapnel. This led to a massive recall and filing of many personal injury suits against the defective manufacturers of these devices.
If an airbag has hurt you, it's crucial you try to preserve any evidence that you can that establishes how the airbag caused your injuries. This means keeping every bit of the device, including pieces on your seat, dash, and floorboards. Don't allow the insurer to take ownership of your vehicle either so that you can still have this evidence available to support your claim for damages.
Types of Injuries That Lead to Airbag Lawsuits
One of the most frustrating aspects of airbag cases is that you could still get seriously hurt even when it functions correctly. This is due to the sudden force and speed at which it inflates on impact, which often results in burns and bruising and bronchial irritation from the chemicals interacting to launch it.
Common airbag injuries include:
- Eye traumas
- Rupturing of the heart muscle
- Skull fractures
- Head injuries, including concussions
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Internal bleeding
- Broken bones
- Fetal injuries
- Asthma attacks due to chemical bronchial irritation
As you can see, most of these potential injuries require medical treatment. However, even in cases where your airbag deployed correctly, you can still sue for compensation. The driver responsible for the crash that hurt you will be liable for the damages you suffered emotionally, physically, and financially.
Airbag Defect and Injury Statistics
Due to the complex mechanisms required for an airbag to work effectively, and the fact they've been required on the driver side of vehicles since 1999, it's no surprise that injuries happen. One of the most dangerous airbag situations is when it doesn't deploy at all when it should have. In 2007, the Kansas City Star reported that those in accidents where deployment failed were more likely to suffer serious injury or die than those hurt by faulty deployment situations.
What causes these essential safety devices not to deploy can vary, but the consequences are devastating to those it was supposed to protect. Whether fault design, defective parts, or poor installation was the cause, thousands of people rely on airbags to save them from serious car accident injuries, not be the primary reason for their suffering.
What Causes an Airbag to Fail During a Car Accident?
As mentioned before, there are countless reasons why airbags don't operate properly during an accident and cause more harm than good to those it was supposed to protect. These devices can deploy as fast as 200mph, which means the likelihood of sustaining an injury is significant during impact. This is especially true if your body was coming into contact with it while still in the inflation stage. You're essentially being hit in the face at 200 mph! Worse, if you were to hit it as it's deflating, you may hit the interior of your car instead. Both of these scenarios can leave you with lifelong devastating injuries.
To better understand how this can happen, below is a brief overview of the different factors that can affect how your airbag system deploys during an impact:
Your Seat Position
Where your seat is positioned on its track can determine how you will come into contact when an airbag deploys. Ideally, its sensors will adjust its speed based on where your seat position is located. When it doesn't, injuries happen.
Your Location and Weight
Another factor affecting the effectiveness of your airbag is your location in the vehicle and how much you weigh. Sensors built into the seats are supposed to adjust to these two factors, but they aren't foolproof. For example, imagine you're sitting in the passenger seat with a grocery bag on your lap. In that case, the airbag mechanism won't have an accurate way to predict your body's forward-moving velocity during an impact.
Airbag System Fails
When we talk about a system failure, we aren't talking about more than it not deploying or doing so in a faulty manner. We're also referring to circumstances that led it to fail. For instance, if you are riding without a seatbelt fastened the built-in sensors that help the system predict where you will be and how fast to inflate the airbag will not be accurate.
Failures resulting from inadequate design or failing sensors are another severe problem that happens more often than they should, leading to debilitating and catastrophic injuries. These scenarios are grounds for an airbag lawsuit.
Airbag Module Design
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration only regulates fundamental safety standards for airbag devices. As a result, it's up to manufacturers to create specific features and designs that will ensure the safest and most reliable deployment during a crash. Unfortunately, this means that depending on how the airbag module was designed determines its safety, not the NHTSA.
Tethering and Volume of Inflation
Airbags are tethered so that they can only go so far into the interior of a vehicle once fully inflated. How the manufacturer designs this operational mechanism can determine the likelihood a passenger or driver will get hurt during a crash that deploys it.
Tethering and inflation volume can cause injuries if the mechanisms that operate the airbag don't correctly account for the positioning and weight of vehicle occupants. Worse, the manufacturer didn't give appropriate warnings about the potential for an airbag not to work correctly. This frequently leads to airbag lawsuits where injured parties recover damages they've suffered from this negligence.
Airbag Materials and Folds
When airbags are assembled, they are carefully folded in a specific way to ensure optimal function. These folds are critical in how its deployment speed and associated force impact individuals during a car crash. Further, what the airbag is constructed out of is equally important since heavier material can cause a harsher impact, and cheap materials could lead it to not being effective or exploding.
Angle of Deployment
Deployment angles play a significant role in the severity of injuries you suffer when an airbag inflates after impact. For those driving, the position of your wheel will determine if you get hit higher or lower on your body. It's ideal to not let an airbag aim directly at your head or neck.
Speed of deployment
Flaws in the airbag manufacturer's design, faulty sensor readings, and improper inflation can all lead to severe injury or fatalities during a car accident. How fast this device deploys will vary depending on the location and weight of the occupant it is attempting to protect. Any error in calculating how quickly it must launch to protect an individual can lead to injury.
Airbag Deployment Threshold
How your airbag knows when to deploy, how fast, and how much force is determined according to the mechanisms running it. This threshold requires specific sensor data to work properly, and any errors made by the airbag company when programming it can make them liable for your injuries.
When an airbag is venting, it's determining how much air it needs to keep or release during deployment. It also plays a role in whether a vehicle occupant hits a full bag or one that is only partially inflated.
Airbag Sensor Design
How airbags sense the different variables necessary to determine deployment depends on how the manufacturer designed its sensor. Some rely on electric fields, infrared, or optic technologies to make this determination. Unfortunately, flawed sensor systems can send incorrect data to the airbag mechanism during deployment, leading to serious injury and even death.
Limited Design Features
You may assume that an airbag is designed to work under any circumstances, but this is just not the case. Certain types of accidents can cause an airbag not to work correctly. This could be a frontal collision where you slide under a big rig or hit a pole. Unfortunately, manufacturers often fail to provide proper warning about these weaknesses, or they have a lapse in their design they haven't bothered to address.