Airbags reduce driver and front-seat passenger deaths by 29% and 32% respectively, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). There’s no disputing that they are an important safety feature, and while they can reduce deaths and injuries, they can also cause them.
According to flemingattorneys.com, it’s not uncommon for drivers and passengers to get hurt in a car accident because of airbags.
4 Types of Injuries
Head and Neck
Airbags can help prevent common injuries caused by frontal impact. The head and neck are especially vulnerable due to contact with the steering wheel.
But deployment can cause other problems with the head and neck, including facial trauma, spine fractures and in rare cases, decapitation. Studies show that a person can suffer damage to their eyes, especially if the person is wearing glasses. Orbital fractures are common, but occupants may also experience retinal detachment or lens rupture.
In cases where accidents are not head-on (front corner or offset from center impact), airbags may not be as effective at preventing head injuries because the impact propels the body in different directions.
Shoulder and Arm
In serious car accidents, airbags can prevent painful head impacts, but there is also an increased risk of damaging the shoulder and forearm. Clavicle injuries are especially common.
Fractures and dislocations are the most common types of upper limb damage caused by airbag deployment. Contusions, sprains, and abrasions can also occur.
When deployed, it can propel the forearm into the rearview mirror, center console, or even the windshield. The impact itself can hurt the forearm, wrist, or hand.
Front airbags prevent occupants from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. However, deployment can also cause injury to the abdomen or chest. Drivers and passengers can suffer rib fractures, cardiac rupture and also damage their spine and heart valve.
Research shows that airbags can seriously bruise the chest wall, cause lacerations and burns, and in some cases, these injuries can be significant. Emergency radiographs may not expose these types of problems, so detailed chest imaging may be required.
Airbags can cause injuries even when they deploy and function properly. If Defective they increase the risk of injury or even death.
The Takata airbag recall demonstrates the potential danger of these defective products in vehicles. Many makes and models were recalled because it was discovered that long-term exposure to heat and humidity caused the airbags to explode upon deployment. In these situations, occupants have experienced significant pain and suffering and even death.
About 63 million airbags were recalled in the initial recall. Some vehicles, mainly Honda, Acura, Mazda and Ford vehicles, were at a higher risk of airbag explosion.
In 2019, additional Takata airbags were recalled because of faulty inflators that may explode or fail to inflate properly upon deployment. The cause of the problem is believed to be a faulty inflator seal. Improper sealing can allow moisture into the propellant used to inflate the airbag. This can cause it to inflate more slowly or, on the other hand, more aggressively and even explode. Metal parts become projectiles causing injury or even death to occupants.
Tips for Injury Prevention
While airbags can cause injuries, the protection they provide often outweighs the risks. There are steps drivers and passengers can take to help prevent the risk of injury in a car accident.
Wear a Seatbelt
Airbags are designed to work in combination with seatbelts. Wearing a seatbelt is crucial not only to prevent airbag-related injuries but also to keep you safe if you are in an accident.
The seatbelt prevents occupant ejection, and the airbag acts as a cushion between the occupant and the dashboard, wheel, windshield, and other surfaces in the vehicle.
Without a seatbelt, the impact of being flung forward towards the steering wheel can seriously hurt you.
Give Yourself Space
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends drivers put at least 10” between the steering wheel and their breastbone. Giving yourself adequate space will help prevent injuries caused by airbag deployment.
The biggest risk of injury is during the first two to three inches of inflation because the force is the strongest in this range. Ten inches will provide enough space between the chest and the airbag.
Talk to a Lawyer About a Product Liability Case
After sustaining injuries in an accident, you should first seek medical treatment. If it’s possible take pictures of the interior and exterior of your car or have a passenger or friend do so. In any case it’s imperative for you to see a doctor right away, failure to do so will allow the other side, the insurance companies and manufacturers, to claim your injuries were not a result of the accident.
If you feel that your injuries were due to a malfunctioning airbag, one that deployed or DID not deploy, or if subsequent to your injuries the manufacturer issues a recall for the make and model of your car, you may have a product liability case. Even if there is no recall you may have a case. The best thing you can do is contact a lawyer. Product liability lawyers, like many, take cases on contingency and always give a free consultation, so it’s in your best interest to simply search for a lawyer on Google and call their office.
Once a lawyer takes you on as a client, they will typically subpoena records and emails from the manufacturer to begin to build your case. The evidence they are looking for may be related to the design of the product, crash test results, corrective actions made to the design, and most importantly internal communications between employees. In general, if a manufacturer issues a recall, it’s because something isn’t working as designed.
In some product liability cases, it’s been proven that the defendants, the manufacturers, had prior knowledge about a problem with their product and were negligent in addressing the problem or did not communicate the issue to the public in a timely manner. A good product liability lawyer can secure the evidence required to win a settlement for you. In fact, they may have settled cases similar to yours before or taken them to trial. Don’t be afraid to speak out, in the long run, it’s in your best interest.