Airbags save lives in vehicle accidents. That’s why we still see them as a standard feature of so many cars. However, if they don’t deploy properly, airbag injuries can cause real harm and even fatal injuries.
When an airbag malfunction injures you, you have legal rights. As with any personal injury case, it’s important to understand how you can recover compensation if something terrible happens.
In this comprehensive guide to airbag injuries, we cover some of the most common injuries, how they happen, and what you can do to recover damages when it malfunctions.
How Do Airbags Work?
Typically, the driver’s side airbag is in the steering wheel while the passenger-side airbag is in the dashboard. Certain vehicles also have side airbags in the doors.
An airbag is made of a light fabric connected to a crash sensor. When the sensor activates, it triggers an igniter that fills the fabric with gas. Then, the airbag deploys in roughly 1/20 of a second.
As you can imagine, that speed comes with quite a bit of force. The deployed airbag should cushion the impact of the collision so that you hit the bag instead of the wheel, dashboard, or windshield. Unfortunately, it’s always possible for things to go wrong.
When they do, people likely suffer an airbag injury.
How Does an Airbag Injury Happen?
There are multiple potential causes behind airbag injuries. Here are just a few problems that can cause an airbag to malfunction.
- As it deploys, it injures the eyes.
- If the sensor malfunctions, the airbag can deploy at the wrong time.
- Shrapnel from the canister can fly out and hit people in the vehicle.
- The gas released to deploy the airbag can cause or worsen a respiratory problem.
In recent years, there was a recall for airbags because long-term exposure to heat and humidity caused them to explode as they deployed. When you live in a city like Houston, TX, that can really shake your faith in your vehicle.
For that specific recall, the manufacturer was Takata, a company used by 19 different car manufacturers. Over 400 injuries and around 30 deaths occurred, resulting in a slew of lawsuits from airbag injury victims.
Facts & Statistics
- Front airbags are a requirement in all new passenger vehicles, put in place in the 1999 model year.
- Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), frontal airbags saved 2,790 lives in 2017.
- Front airbags reduce driver fatalities in front-end crashes by 29% and reduce front-seat passenger fatalities (13+) by 32%.
- Between 1987 and 2016, front airbags saved upwards of 50,000 lives.
The 10 Most Common Airbag Injuries
While the worst injuries tend to occur in a malfunction, even a properly functioning airbag can cause damage.
Here are the ten most common airbag injuries:
- Facial injuries from the impact, including fractures to small bones and bruising
- Chest injuries from impact to the chest, including damage to the heart
- Friction burns as the fabric moves along the skin of the face, arms, hands, or chest
- Fractures, including the ribs, wrist bones, and skull
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Eye injuries from the chemicals or pressure of the deployment
- Trauma to the ears, even including loss of hearing
- Internal bleeding from the impact of the deployment
- Asthma and other respiratory problems from the chemicals
- Injury to the fetus of a pregnant woman
Generally, these injuries are far more likely and severe when the occupants don’t wear a seatbelt. Still, even when you do everything correctly, airbag injuries are possible.
What Do I Do If I Have an Airbag Injury?
If you sustain an airbag injury, your claim requires evidence and a thorough investigation. That means it is crucial that you preserve the parts of the airbag after the incident. Do not dispose of the fabric or crash sensor.
Instead, do your best to retain all the parts so that you have the necessary evidence to prove your claim. Unfortunately, this can be difficult when an insurance adjuster totals the vehicle and tries to take possession of it.
Before you let them take the vehicle, speak with a personal injury lawyer so that you have a better chance to preserve important evidence.
The Rights of an Airbag Injury Victim
If you are the victim of an airbag malfunction, you may be able to pursue compensation for damages. Fault can be tricky, but you could potentially pursue a claim against:
- The airbag manufacture
- The vehicle manufacturer
- Any individual or company that inspected, maintained, or replaced the airbag after the purchase
A successful claim requires you to prove that the airbag was defective and that the defect directly caused your injury. Unlike a personal injury case, you don’t have to prove negligence. These cases fall under product liability laws, and companies are liable for defective products that cause harm.
You also have some other potential legal claims available. For instance, a victim might sue for negligent construction or design, breach of express, implied warranty, etc. Your best path forward is to speak with an experienced attorney about your options.
What Compensation Is Available in Airbag Injury Claims?
Once you successfully prove a defective airbag caused your injury, you can recover compensation for relevant losses.
Here are a few common examples:
- Medical bills from the treatment of airbag injuries
- Lost wages from time off or reduced capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
When you work with an experienced attorney, they can help you understand the damages available to you and organize your claim.
What If I Was At Fault for the Accident?
You still have options if you suffered airbag injuries. Even if you are at fault for the wreck, it’s still possible to recover some compensation for the damages caused by a defective safety device.
If you or a loved one suffered airbag injuries from a defective product, it’s important to seek immediate medical care. Preserve as much of the airbag as possible, and strive to maintain possession of your vehicle until you speak with a lawyer.