Airbag Failures Are A Dangerous Vehicle Defect
Experienced auto products liability attorneys say that, while car airbags have saved numerous lives, an alarming number of airbag failures have caused severe injuries and deaths. These vehicle defects have presented particular dangers to shorter drivers who tend to sit closer to steering wheels. Sadly, many defective airbags have deployed in low-speed car collisions, resulting in injuries and death in crashes that would have otherwise been survivable with only minor injuries.
As Many as 1,400 Deaths Linked to Airbag Failures
These types of auto defects constitute a significant risk to drivers and passengers. An analysis of NHTSA's accident database, conducted between 2001 and 2006 by the Kansas City Star, revealed that over 1,400 people died in front-impact car accidents after airbags failed to deploy. This analysis did not include side-impact crashes where the airbag failed to deploy, fatal impacts to the right or left fender, and fatalities due to occupant ejections or vehicle rollover crashes. Had these been taken into account, the death count would have risen by more than 4,000. The Star further reported that since 2001, the number of fatalities caused by airbags failures rose about 50 percent--with 2006 experiencing a 14 percent increase in deaths. Savvy auto products liability lawyers say this is a disturbing rise in auto products liability for major automakers.
Airbag Defects Deadly to Children Under 12
For children 12 and under, air bags can be particularly dangerous. The reason is simple: Passenger-side air bags inflate in milliseconds at up to 200 miles per hour. While cushioned by air, this huge explosion of energy can be deadly to children who are unbelted or improperly belted. Another design defect of many airbags is that they inflate horizontally from the front of the instrument panel directly toward a person's head (safer designs, have the airbag mounted on top of the instrument panel to inflate vertically upward, then out). Also alarming is that fact that too many automakers don't crash-test their prototype and production airbags systems using dummies of infants, small children, short-stature females, and large adult males. The best auto products liability attorneys have noted that not testing various body types and sizes can result in serious product liabilities for automakers.
Many Airbag Malfunctions Contribute to Auto Products Liability
One particularly lethal auto defect is the over-aggressive airbag. When deployed this type of airbag either intrudes too far into the occupant's space, or is too aggressive for small people and children. A "one size fits all" airbag design often results in excessively forceful airbag inflation. Airbags that inflate with too much force can cause trauma to the face, head, neck, spine, and in some cases, blindness, permanent disfigurement, brain damage and even decapitation. Newer airbag systems use safer multi-force inflators. Moreover, some manufacturers have switched to airbags that inflate sequentially instead of a single high-pressure explosion. Better products liability attorneys say this design may help cut down on the number of serious injuries.
Still another common airbag defect involves crash sensors that trigger in low-speed crashes of only 7 to 15 miles per hour (safer systems trigger in collisions above 15 or 18 mph). This occurs when crash sensors, mounted near a vehicle's headlights, erroneously signal the airbag system that a major crash is in progress, causing the airbag to needlessly deploy. In some collisions, crash sensors can also delay the signal to deploy, causing the airbag to either inflate needlessly or too late to prevent injuries in a crash. As one can see, airbag failures are among the most dangerous vehicle defects, and newer, safer designs are long past due.
For more information on auto products liability, please see our Auto Defects Digest to read about specific make-model-year defect descriptions.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries as the result of a defective auto part or vehicle, contact the experienced California auto products liability legal team at Bisnar | Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, LLP for a free consultation. We will use our extensive knowledge and resources to achieve the best possible results for you and your family.
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