Cushioning people in the event of a crash, airbags are among the most notable safety innovations of recent decades. Frontal airbags have saved 50,457 lives from 1987 to 2017. However, in the past years, there are reports of airbags failing to inflate during a crash. In an investigation by the NHTSA, there are about 12.3 million cars across 10 brands with airbags that may not deploy in case of a collision. What implications does this finding have for motorists like you?
When Should an Airbag Deploy?
Airbags work by providing a protective cushion to the passenger, thereby preventing him from hitting hard objects during a collision. Airbags should deploy immediately as soon as a moderate or severe crash occurs. If it happens, a sensor within the airbag module measures the severity of the impact. When severe enough, the sensor sends a signal to the inflator, which will rapidly fill the bags (front or side) with gas in about 1/20th of a second.
Airbags don’t usually deploy in situations such as:
- Minor frontal collision or minor head on crash
- Collisions without front to back deceleration (rear-end collision, for example)
- Accidents involving hitting small animals like deer or dogs
- Hitting gravel, bumps, or potholes on roads
- Striking a parking block, curb, or sign
When airbags work correctly, they can help minimize the risk of severe injury and help save the life of a passenger. Unfortunately, there have been cases of airbags that fail to deploy during a fatal crash.
In some cases, during a major collision, airbags could even result in more critical injuries than the passenger could suffer without it. Sometimes, the force of airbag deployment could lead to injuries like abrasions, contusions, and broken bones.
Airbag Defects That Could Result in Preventable Injuries
Takata airbags have caused injuries and deaths worldwide. The Japanese-made airbags have propellants in them that can become unstable over time with long-term exposure to humidity and high temperature. When deployed, the defective airbags spew out shrapnel at the vehicle occupants, resulting in severe injuries and even deaths. These airbags have been recalled since late 2008.
There were instances when airbags did not inflate when they should due to some product defects. Product liability can fall under one of the following categories:
- Design defect
Airbag design may be defective, causing it to malfunction. Examples of design defects include faulty crash sensors, wiring problems, and airbag module problems.
- Manufacturing defect
There are cases when the design may be safe, but the production did not follow the manufacturing specifications. It can make the whole batch of the product unsafe.
- Labeling defect
Insufficient or the absence of the manufacturer’s warning can lead to misguided use of the product. The lack of user instructions or warning labels also falls under marketing defects.
Preventable Injuries and Damages Linked with Airbag Deployment
There are manufacturing and distributing standards that automakers must follow to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their products. Failure to follow these standards may result in severe injuries and personal damages that could have been prevented. Among these injuries are:
- Severe injuries – whiplash, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, among others
- Pain and suffering
- Hospital bills and ongoing medical expenses
- Loss of income due to the injuries
- Legal fees
- Loss of quality of life Other punitive damages
Practical Tips to Prevent Airbag Injuries
Airbag manufacturers are continually looking for innovative ideas to safely and effectively integrate airbags into vehicles. In light of the airbag injuries, here are some practical tips that vehicle occupants can do to prevent injuries from deploying airbags:
- Front-seat occupants sit in the center of the seat, upright against the backrest and the feet on the floor.
- Never rest your arms and legs against an airbag because once they deploy the force and the hot gases might cause injury.
- Avoid using seat covers and aftermarket dash because these can obstruct a deploying airbag.
- The driver’s chest must have a 10-inch clearance from the center of the steering wheel. For shorter drivers, this can be achieved by reclining the seatback a bit. With older vehicles, pedal extenders or an on-off airbag switch may help.
- As much as necessary, children should ride in the rear seat with the lap/shoulder belt securely buckled in place. They should never lean against the door area.
- For pregnant women, a properly positioned seatbelt and airbags should provide the best protection.
Your Legal Rights After an Airbag Malfunction
If you or someone you care about figured in an accident involving an airbag that did not deploy, you have the legal rights to a claim. You could file a legal case against the manufacturer or distributor of the product if it has any defects that resulted in personal injuries.
A skilled personal injury attorney who is well-versed with car accident cases can help you present a strong case. Our car accident lawyers at The Clark Law Office will fiercely fight for your rights and help get you the maximum compensation you deserve. Contact us now to schedule a free consultation with us.