While airbags are meant to keep drivers and riders safe in the event of a car accident, sometimes they can cause harm. The vast majority of airbags deployed in car accidents have helped save lives, but manufacturing issues and negligent practices can and have led to severe airbag injuries and even death.
The most recent example of the impact of airbag problems is the Takata Airbag Recall, because of which tens of millions of cars were recalled by nearly 20 auto dealers (including Honda, Toyota, and Ford). Despite the recall, 16 people in the US (and 24 worldwide) died, and hundreds were injured when defects caused some of the Yakata company airbags inflators to explode. (You can check if your car was affected by the Takata Recall online.)
If you or someone you love has received airbag injuries from a defective airbag, don’t settle for less than you need and deserve. Contact the car accident attorneys at Mithoff Law by calling us today at 713-654-1122 to set up a consultation.
Why do I need a lawyer if my airbag didn’t deploy in an accident?
Every airbag injury case is different. Once retained by a client, an airbag injury law firm like Mithoff Law can help preserve and review critical evidence. Our team coordinates with subject-matter experts to ensure that the root causes of an incident are understood.
The personal injury lawyers at Mithoff Law have decades of experience handling cases that involve airbag injuries and making sure that responsible parties are held to account. For more information, check out our record of success.
How do airbags work?
First and foremost, airbags are meant to work with a seatbelt. They are not meant to be the sole safety precaution in effect when someone gets in an accident. For an airbag to deploy, your car must typically be traveling above 8–18 MPH (depending on the model) when involved in an accident.
Airbag positions and purposes
Driver and passenger airbags, aka frontal airbags, are meant to deploy only in head-on or near-frontal collisions. They are meant to keep a passenger’s head and neck from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, and windshield.
The driver’s frontal airbag is located in the steering wheel and is typically the size of a beach ball when inflated. Passenger frontal airbags are found in a compartment in the dashboard and are often bigger than the driver’s airbag since the dashboard is located at a greater distance from the passenger than the steering wheel is from the driver.
Some cars include sensors in the passenger seat that determine (via weight) the presence of a small child or small object; if a small child is in the passenger seat, the airbag should not deploy, as it’s more likely to cause injuries than to help.
Side airbags are meant to deploy when your car has been hit in the side or in the case of a rollover accident. They are typically located in the door panels or within your seat and come between your body and the door when inflated. They are meant to protect your hips and lower torso from injury. Not all cars come with side airbags, as they are not required by applicable regulations.
What triggers airbag deployment?
Sensors (accelerometers) in your car detect an accident by recognizing when your car has slowed down at a rate much faster than typical braking speeds. If the sensor is triggered, it activates an airbag circuit. This circuit sends an electrical current into a heating element, which then ignites a small chemical explosion. The explosion produces a high-pressure gas—typically nontoxic nitrogen gas or argon—that quickly inflates the airbag.
When should airbags deploy?
The driver-side airbag should typically activate 20–30 milliseconds after an accident, and the passenger should typically activate 30–40 milliseconds after an accident. To put that speed in perspective, the average human blink lasts about 100 milliseconds.
Why do airbags deflate?
Your frontal airbags are meant to deflate. Small holes allow gas to exit the airbag when your head comes into contact with the airbag, expanding the surface area that touches your face and thus softening the impact. Side airbags do not deflate when your body comes into contact with them and can stay inflated for several days after the accident.
Types of defective airbags that may cause airbag injuries
As you can see, airbags systems must work with precision and accuracy in a very, very short amount of time. Sometimes, manufacturing defects or other issues cause this system to fail. The following are common airbag defects that can lead to airbag injuries.
Airbags that don’t deploy: An airbag may not deploy for a variety of reasons, some of them intentional, such as low-speed accidents. But airbags that don’t deploy when all conditions are met for them to inflate should be considered potentially defective.
Airbags that deploy too late: In the event that an airbag doesn’t deploy immediately upon impact with another object, drivers and passengers may be at risk of receiving injuries due to delayed deployment. Not only can someone in this situation receive injuries from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield, but they may receive airbag injuries when the airbag does inflate.
Airbags that deploy when they shouldn’t: Perhaps you do a bad curb check, or maybe you run over one of Houston’s infamous potholes, only to have the double surprise of having an airbag deploy in your face. Not only might you face airbag injuries, but you can also actually get into an accident because of your airbags if you are on a busy street and/or lose control of your car.
Airbags that malfunction in other ways: Airbags have caused injuries by failing to deflate once deployed, by deploying with too much force, by deploying when a child is in the passenger seat (even though the car’s sensor shouldn’t have allowed this), and many other reasons.
Even airbags that work as they are intended to may cause airbag injuries, including hearing loss caused by the explosion, blindness due to eye injuries from hitting the bag with too much force, broken facial bones, asthma attacks from the chemicals and dust released after deployment, and abrasions from the impact of the bag.
However, as stated before, in the majority of cases, properly functioning airbags save lives and help prevent injuries. It’s when defective airbags find their way into cars that injuries become more prevalent and severe.
These types of common airbag injuries include:
- Broken bones in the face, chest, and limbs
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Internal bleeding and injuries to internal organs
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
Defective airbags and personal injury law
After a car accident, the most important things to take care of are seeking medical attention and doing as much as you can that’s outlined in our What to Do After a Car Accident article. Next, call your car accident lawyer in Houston, report the incident to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). Doing so helps the NHTSA keep track of recurring problems and institute change.
Once you have acquired representation, you and your personal injury attorney can begin building your case. If you determine your airbag injuries were caused by a defective airbag, you and your lawyer will need to decide what type of charge you should bring.
Typical claims relating to airbag injuries and defective airbags include:
- Warning defects: Product lacked adequate warnings for dangers inherent to the use of the product.
- Design defects: As designed, the product is inadequately safe to use as intended.
- Manufacturing defects: A process in the manufacturing of the product makes the product too dangerous to use properly.
BREACH OF WARRANTY
- Implied warranty of merchantability: an implied (non-written) warranty that a product should perform according to normal expectations in order to be sold.
- Express warranty: a warranty that comes with the sales contract that makes specific promises to the customer.
- Implied warranty of fitness: an implied (non-written) warranty formed when a seller provides a product that’s made to answer a specific request on the part of a customer.
Contact Mithoff Law to Discuss Representation in an Airbag Injury Case
The nationally-recognized lawyers at Mithoff Law have won some of the most precedent-setting automotive personal injury cases of the century. When we represent clients, we aim not only to provide you with justice, but to improve the safety of everyone on the road.
Contact the car accident attorneys at Mithoff Law by calling us today at 713-654-1122 to set up a consultation.
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