Since 1998, all passenger vehicles must have front airbags. Many of today’s cars also have airbags on the sides and in other places. Airbags are intended to save lives, and they do, but they can also cause serious personal injury, even when working correctly.
Malfunctioning airbags, however, can cause severe injury and even death. Last year, vehicles made by 19 different auto manufacturers were recalled because of malfunctioning front driver and passenger-side airbags. It was one of the most extensive recalls in history. The Takata-made airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or killing occupants, often from metal shards deployed from the airbag with great force. To date, the faulty Takata airbags have caused 26 deaths worldwide and 400 injuries in the United States.
Motorists or passengers who have been injured by a deployed airbag should reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance.
How Do Airbags Work?
Airbags are made of a light fabric. They are compactly tucked into the steering wheel, behind the dash, in the side doors, and other locations within the vehicle. They deploy based on signals they receive from the car’s crash sensor.
The sensor will deploy the airbag only when it senses a significant collision, such as head-on or side-impact collisions, and when the vehicle is going 10 mph or faster. When the crash sensor is triggered, the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, expands. Gas, often nitrogen or argon, then fills the airbag, causing it to deploy.
Deployment happens very quickly, generally within 1/20 of a second and with up to 2,000 pounds of force. Although this swift force can save lives, it can also cause minor to severe injuries to both drivers and passengers.
How can an Airbag Cause Injuries?
Most airbag injuries happen because of either a faulty airbag or a malfunctioning crash sensor. The cause of the airbag malfunction or damage will be crucial to a claim a car accident lawyer may bring on behalf of an airbag injury victim.
In the Takata airbag recall, the airbag’s inflator could ignite with an explosive force, causing the inflator’s metal housing to rupture and spray metal shards throughout the vehicle. Investigators found the root cause of the problem to be the gas propellant used to inflate the bag. The ammonium nitrate-based propellant was not used with a chemical drying agent, resulting in inflator housing explosions and faulty airbag deployment.
A faulty crash sensor can also cause several harmful issues:
- Does not release the airbags in a collision.
- Deploys the airbags in a non-collision.
- Deploys the airbags too late in a collision.
- Does not release all airbags in the vehicle in a collision.
Depending on the malfunction, or even if the airbag is working correctly, a passenger’s head or body may be unsafely close to the airbag when it deploys. The sheer force and speed of the deployment can cause harm to adults, but even more so to children who are less able to withstand the impact.
Of course, if an airbag fails to release or some airbags in the vehicle do not deploy, the passenger is subject to serious injury. They will have no protection from blunt force, glass, ejection, and other risks in an accident.
What Injuries can Occur When an Airbag is Deployed?
Injuries can happen when an airbag malfunctions as well as when it works correctly. The extent of injury depends on where the passenger was sitting; how close they were to the airbag when released; the type, severity, and impact of the accident; and even the person’s age and physical stature.
Injuries will vary, but common airbag injuries include the following:
- Sprains, often to the fingers, wrist, and hands
- Abrasions, lacerations, burns, and bruising, often to the face, chest, arms, and legs
- Eye, nose, mouth, and teeth injuries; potential ear damage or hearing loss
- Facial and skull fractures
- Internal bleeding and internal organ injuries
- Concussions, brain swelling, loss of consciousness, brain injury
- Rib fractures, broken arms, and wrists
- Neck and spinal injuries
- Asthma attacks or other lung issues related to airbag chemicals
Airbags can even cause death in some cases.
What if an Airbag Has Injured Me?
Anyone who has been injured by an airbag, as either a driver or a passenger, needs to preserve as much evidence as possible. There may be a valid legal claim to help victims recover damages after being injured by an airbag, but solid evidence is needed.
If a child has an airbag injury, a parent or guardian can bring a claim on behalf of the child.
After the accident, a good first step after getting medical attention is for the driver to keep the vehicle, with deployed airbag and all associated parts, in their possession. The crash sensor, airbag, the car’s computer, and similar evidence will be needed to prove that a faulty airbag or crash sensor caused the injury.
Then, an experienced car accident lawyer should be contacted as soon as possible after the accident. A knowledgeable lawyer will work quickly to document the evidence needed to make a successful claim against a car or parts manufacturer. It is important to remember that even airbags that work correctly can cause injuries.
Lawyers will also gather witness statements, expert testimony, and other evidence needed to build a solid case. They will work with victims to calculate the losses associated with the airbag injury, including costs for medical care, property damage, loss of income, and even pain and suffering.
After determining costs and gathering evidence, the lawyer will present the evidence to the appropriate parties or their insurers. From there, negotiations for fair and just compensation will take place. If an agreement cannot be reached, the lawyer can take the case to court.
Hazlet Car Accident Lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova Advocate for People Injured by Airbags and Faulty Car Parts
The number of recalls on American cars shows that automakers and parts manufacturers or assemblers can and do make mistakes. But anyone harmed by these mistakes should not have to bear all the devastating physical, financial, and emotional losses without some monetary compensation. The Hazlet car accident lawyers at Mikita & Roccanova will stand up for your rights whenever a car or car part causes your injury or a loved one’s death. We hold the right people accountable so you can recover the compensation for which you are entitled under the law. Call us at 732-705-3363 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Hazlet and Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in Ocean County and Sussex County, and Pennsylvania.