The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that airbags saved about 40,000 lives in the last 25 years. While airbags can prevent serious injuries during a car accident, they could also cause injuries if they aren’t functioning properly.
How Airbags Function
Airbags are made out of a light fabric that inflates and deploys during a car crash. There is an airbag located behind the dashboard on the passenger side and on the driver’s side behind the steering wheel. A crash sensor deploys the airbag during a car crash by triggering an ignitor; it should take 1/20th of a second to deploy. The ignitor fills the airbag with a gas and the airbag deflates immediately after the individual contacts it. An airbag should only deploy during head-on or near-head- on collisions.
How Airbags Cause Injuries
When airbags malfunction, they can be harmful instead of preventative. If a person is sitting extremely close to the airbag, a correct deployment can even harm someone. To prevent injury, one should sit at least ten inches away from the airbag. There are a few ways an airbag can cause an injury:
- Sitting too close, as discussed above.
- Hot gases released during airbag deployment can cause health problems when released in the car.
- Problems with the crash sensor constitute the most common malfunctions. The two most common sources of airbag injuries are late deployment and failure to deploy.
- Overpowering deployment happens most commonly with older cars.
- A minor impact could trigger the release of an airbag which can result in injuries; this is called inadvertent deployment.
- Fracturing of the sternum, skull and facial bones, or ribs.
- Impact burns or lacerations from the deployment of an airbag.
- Burns from the hot gases used in airbag deployment.
- Face or chest bruising.
- Concussion and/or fainting.
- Brain injuries.
- Finger and wrist injuries.
- Respiratory distress.
- Eye and ear injuries
Some of these injuries could be serious and sometimes fatal or lead to chronic health problems or even permanent disability. Even injuries that are less severe may require expensive and time-consuming intensive medical treatment.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you are harmed by an airbag, you will need a lawyer to prove the airbag malfunctioned or was designed dangerously to make a case for a lawsuit. If you can, try to preserve evidence like the airbag itself. Don’t let your car be transferred to the insurance company. The car’s “black box” (if it has one) will record pertinent information including whether or not seatbelts were on, whether the brakes were applied or the speed of the car at the time of the crash. It could prove that the injuries you sustained were definitely from the airbags and not from negligent driving.
You may be able to hold the manufacturer liable if the airbag malfunctioned or had a hazardous design. A lawyer can help you collect damages from a car accident lawsuit.
Consider contacting a lawyer if you have sustained injuries from an airbag. Some injuries can be debilitating and extremely painful. Most personal injury lawyers will offer a free review of your case and you can request the guidance needed to win your compensation.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cannon Hadfield Stienben & Doutt, LLC for their insight into car accident cases.