Airbag Failures Are A Dangerous Auto Defect
In the event of an accident, airbags in vehicles can play a significant role in reducing the severity of the traumatic injuries suffered by occupants. However, defective airbags can result in more harm than good. For example, when an airbag fails to deploy, the vehicle's occupants may suffer catastrophic injuries or even fatalities. In another scenario, when an airbag deploys suddenly or inadvertently, a serious injury collision could occur. Anyone who has been injured as a result of a defective airbag would be well advised to understand his or her legal rights and options.
Statistics Relating to Airbags
Airbags are supplemental restraints designed to work with safety belts. Since model year 1998, all new cars sold in the United States have been required to have an airbag each on the driver and passenger side. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), front air bags have saved the lives of 25,782 people between 1987 and 2008. Statistical analyses by NHTSA show that the combination of seatbelt use and airbags is highly effective, reducing fatality risk by 61 percent compared to an unbelted occupant of a vehicle that is not equipped with airbags.
How Airbags Work
Airbags play a vital role in preventing head injuries. The concept of airbags is simple - striking your head against an air-filled pillow is far safer than striking the interior of a vehicle. When there is a collision at about 15 mph, the sensor tells the bag to inflate. The bag, made of nylon fabric, inflates with nitrogen gas before the front seat occupant can make contact with the steering wheel or dashboard. Airbags can inflate within 1/20th of a second. However, it is important to realize that the explosive force with which airbags deploy can also cause injuries. Airbags are not necessarily soft pillows that comfortably cushion you during a crash. Rapid inflation is necessary for the deployment of airbags, but it can also result in serious injuries.
What Makes an Airbag Defective?
Even a properly working airbag can cause serious or even fatal injuries if the occupant is a child or a small adult who is sitting too close to the airbag at the time of deployment. Some airbags, however, can cause devastating injuries even when the occupant is a safe distance from the steering wheel or dashboard. Defective airbags may cause:
- Airbag deployment failure: Airbags are an important part of a vehicle's restraint system. When an airbag fails to deploy, the occupant could suffer preventable traumatic injuries.
- Unnecessary deployment: Airbags are not meant to deploy during minor collisions. If they suddenly deploy when they are not needed, they can actually cause harm instead of preventing injuries.
- Oversized airbags: When an airbag inflates too much, it can violently strike an occupant, causing blunt force head trauma.
- Untethered airbags: The position and movement of the airbag will alter its effectiveness.
- Under-inflated airbags: When an airbag is improperly designed or assembled, it may not inflate correctly. An underinflated airbag could fail to prevent the occupant from striking the interior of the car.
- Incorrect positioning: Airbags deflate at an extremely fast rate. When an airbag inflates toward an occupant instead of upward, it can cause severe trauma.
Examples of Defective Airbags
When an airbag is defective, the auto manufacturer may issue a recall to fix the serious safety issue.
Examples of recent airbag recalls include:
- In October 2013, Toyota issued a recall of 885,000 vehicles for electrical problems that prevented airbags from deploying in a crash. There were two minor injuries reported before the recall was issued on a variety of 2012 and 2013 Camry, Avalon and Venza vehicles.
- In April 2013, a number of Japanese automakers recalled vehicles for having improperly inflating airbags. Honda, Nissan and Toyota all use components for airbags from the same manufacturer. As a result, there were many different types of vehicles involved that were manufactured between 2000 and 2002.
- Honda, Toyota, Nissan and General Motors recalled airbags from cars produced between 2000 and 2004 after there were reports of faulty, exploding airbag parts. Defective airbag components in about 3 million vehicles were reported to have exploded and sent shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment.
- Ford Motors issued a recall of 144,000 F-150 pickup trucks from model years 2005 and 2006 after there were 269 reports of accidental airbag deployments.
Protecting Your Rights
If you have suffered an injury as the result of a faulty airbag, you may be able to seek compensation by filing a airbag failure product liability claim against the automaker and/or the manufacturer of the defective airbag. Make sure you preserve the vehicle and the airbag. Do not make any repairs without having a qualified expert conduct a thorough inspection. It is also highly advisable to seek medical attention right away. This will not only help create a medical record and documentation of your injuries, but will also maximize your chances for a complete recovery. A successful claim against an auto manufacturer could result in financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, the cost of rehabilitation services and other related damages.
The experienced California airbag failure lawyers at Bisnar | Chase have obtained successful verdicts and settlements in similar cases on behalf of injured victims and their families. We know what it takes to fight against large automakers whose negligence causes these types of catastrophic product failures. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a defective auto, please contact us at 1-800-561-4887 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.
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