Airbag Injuries

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Airbags are a crucial safety feature in modern vehicles, designed to protect passengers during a collision. While they have saved countless lives, airbags can also cause injuries under certain conditions.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of airbag injuries, exploring how airbags work, the types of injuries they can cause, and how to prevent them.

Table of Contents

Factoid About Airbags

Factoid Statistic
Front airbags required in all new passenger vehicles since 1999 model year
Driver fatalities in frontal crashes reduced by front airbags 29%
Front-seat passengers age 13+ fatalities in frontal crashes reduced by front airbags 32%
Driver-side crash death risk reduced by side airbags that protect the head for car drivers 37%
Driver-side crash death risk reduced by side airbags that protect the head for SUV drivers 52%
Lives saved by frontal airbags as of 2017 50,457
Lives saved by side airbags as of 2012 2,252
Risk of death in frontal crashes reduced by airbag plus safety belt 61%
Front airbag deployment threshold for unbelted occupants 10-12 mph
Front airbag deployment threshold for belted occupants 16 mph
Side airbags deployment time in side crashes First 10-20 milliseconds
Deaths caused by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed crashes (1990-2008) More than 290

Overview of Airbag Purpose and Importance

Airbags are designed to deploy in milliseconds upon a collision, providing a protective barrier between passengers and the vehicle’s interior. Since their introduction, airbags have been credited with reducing fatalities in frontal crashes by up to 30%.

Despite their life-saving capabilities, the deployment process and the materials involved can sometimes cause injuries to passengers.

Airbags–Lifesavers That Can Injure

While airbags have undeniably saved lives, their deployment can also result in injuries, ranging from minor bruises to more severe, sometimes fatal, injuries.

This paradox arises from the very nature of airbag deployment—a rapid inflation designed to prevent occupants from striking hard surfaces within the vehicle.

How Airbags Work

Understanding the operation of airbags is key to appreciating their value and recognizing the circumstances under which they may cause injuries. Airbags are complex systems designed to react within moments of a collision, offering a crucial buffer that can save lives.

The Mechanics Behind Airbag Deployment

Airbags deploy when a collision triggers sensors in the vehicle, signaling the airbag’s control unit that a rapid expansion is needed to protect the occupants.

This signal initiates a chemical reaction within the airbag inflator, producing gas that fills the airbag, causing it to expand outward within a fraction of a second.

The precise timing of this process is critical—too slow, and it won’t provide the necessary protection; too fast, and it could cause injuries.

Types of Airbags and Their Locations in Vehicles

Understanding the various types of airbags and their specific locations within a vehicle is essential for both drivers and passengers.

This knowledge not only enhances safety awareness but also aids in recognizing the different ways these devices protect occupants during a collision.

Understanding the layout of airbags within your vehicle is crucial for maximizing the protective benefits they offer.

By familiarizing yourself with the types and locations of airbags, you can better appreciate the sophisticated safety features engineered to safeguard you and your passengers in the event of an accident.

The Role of Sensors and Ignition in Airbag Activation

Airbag sensors are the brain behind the operation, detecting collision forces and determining whether the impact is severe enough to warrant deployment.

These sensors, along with the airbag’s control unit, assess the nature of the crash in milliseconds, deciding not only if but also which airbags should deploy to offer the best protection.

Common Airbag Injuries

Airbags are engineered to save lives, but their deployment can sometimes result in injuries to vehicle occupants.

These injuries can range from minor bruises to more serious conditions, depending on various factors including the severity of the crash, the position of the occupant, and whether the airbag operates as intended.

Facial Injuries and the Impact of Airbag Force

The face is one of the most common areas affected by airbag deployment. The rapid expansion of the airbag can cause bruising, cuts, or even fractures to facial bones.

Such injuries often occur because the face is in close proximity to the airbag when it deploys, especially if the occupant is leaning forward at the moment of impact.

Chest and Heart Injuries Due to Airbag Pressure

The chest area, being directly in the path of a deploying frontal airbag, is susceptible to injuries such as rib fractures or cardiac issues.

The force exerted by a deploying airbag is immense—necessary to cushion the blow from a severe crash but potentially harmful at close range.

Burns and Abrasions from Airbag Fabric and Chemicals

The chemicals used to initiate the rapid inflation of airbags can cause burns or irritations to the skin.

Furthermore, the fabric of the airbag, moving at high speeds, can cause abrasions or friction burns on exposed skin areas like the face and arms.

Skull, Rib, and Wrist Fractures

The force of an airbag deployment can lead to fractures in the skull, ribs, or wrist.

Such injuries typically occur when the force of the airbag pushes the occupant back against hard surfaces of the vehicle or if the occupant’s hands are thrown against the dashboard or steering wheel.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may occur if the head is violently shaken or strikes a part of the vehicle interior during the deployment of an airbag.

These injuries can range from mild concussions to more severe brain damage.

Eye Injuries from Chemical Irritation or Pressure

The chemicals released during airbag deployment, designed to inflate the bag rapidly, can irritate or damage the eyes.

Additionally, the pressure from the airbag can cause injuries to the eye itself, which may result in temporary or permanent vision problems.

Ear Trauma, Including Hearing Loss

The loud noise of an airbag deploying can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, as well as other ear traumas.

The sound of a deploying airbag is comparable to that of a gunshot, and such noise levels can damage the eardrums and inner ear structures.

Causes of Airbag Injuries

While airbags are designed to protect, the very mechanism that makes them lifesaving can also lead to injuries under certain conditions. It’s important to understand these causes to mitigate risks and ensure the safety of all vehicle occupants.

Malfunctioning Airbag Sensors Leading to Untimely Deployment

Airbag sensors are critical for determining when deployment is necessary during a collision. However, if these sensors malfunction, airbags can deploy too late, too early, or unnecessarily, leading to potential injuries.

Such malfunctions could be due to sensor defects, software glitches, or improper calibration, causing the airbag to react inappropriately during an accident.

Chemical Burns from Gases Released During Airbag Inflation

The rapid inflation of airbags involves a chemical reaction that releases gases to fill the airbag.

Occasionally, these gases can escape the fabric of the airbag, causing chemical burns or respiratory issues for the vehicle occupants. The intensity of the reaction can also lead to higher temperatures, contributing to the risk of burns.

Shrapnel from Airbag Components Causing Physical Harm

In some cases, the inflator mechanism within the airbag can rupture, propelling metal fragments or shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

This risk was notably highlighted in the Takata airbag recall, where inflators could explode and send metal pieces flying, leading to injuries or even fatalities.

The Takata Airbag Recall and Its Implications

The Takata airbag recall is the largest automotive recall in history, affecting millions of vehicles worldwide.

The recall was initiated due to a defect in the airbag inflator, which could explode and project shrapnel into the vehicle.

This defect was attributed to the use of ammonium nitrate in the inflators, which can become volatile over time, especially when exposed to moisture and high temperatures.

The recall underscored the potential dangers associated with airbag systems and the importance of timely maintenance and recall compliance.

When it comes to airbag injuries, victims have specific legal rights that enable them to seek compensation and justice for their suffering. Understanding these rights is essential for anyone who has experienced harm due to a malfunctioning or improperly deployed airbag.

Understanding Product Liability in the Context of Airbag Injuries

Product liability law is crucial when dealing with airbag injuries. This legal framework holds manufacturers, distributors, and retailers responsible for injuries caused by defective products.

If an airbag injury can be traced back to a defect in the airbag’s design, manufacturing process, or inadequate warnings, the victim may have a strong product liability claim.

These laws ensure that companies are held accountable for the safety of their products and provide a path for compensation for those harmed by their products.

Steps to Take if You Suspect an Airbag Injury

If you suspect that you’ve sustained an injury due to an airbag during a vehicle collision, taking prompt and precise steps can significantly affect the outcome of any potential legal claim for compensation. Here’s a guideline to follow:

  1. Seek Medical Attention Immediately
  2. Document Everything
  3. Preserve Evidence
  4. Contact a Reputable Attorney

The Role of Evidence in Pursuing a Legal Claim

Evidence plays a pivotal role in airbag injury claims.

Medical records, testimonies, accident reports, and the vehicle itself can all serve as crucial pieces of evidence.

These elements can help establish the cause of the injury, the extent of the harm suffered, and the link between the injury and the airbag’s malfunction.

A well-documented case is essential for a successful legal claim.

Potential Defendants in Airbag Injury Cases

In airbag injury cases, potential defendants may include the airbag manufacturer, the vehicle manufacturer, and, in some cases, dealers or retailers.

Identifying the responsible party(ies) is a complex process that requires a thorough investigation into the airbag’s design, manufacturing, and history of malfunctions.

Legal professionals with experience in product liability can navigate these complexities to identify all parties that may be liable for the injury.

If you or a loved one has been injured by an airbag in a car accident, you don’t have to face the aftermath alone.

Carew Garcia, a leading Dallas car accident attorney, is here to provide the legal support you need.

With our experienced team, we’ll work tirelessly to ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve. Call us today at (214) 227-2220 to start your journey towards recovery.