There are many serious injuries that can be caused by airbag deployment. Even if deployed in a slowly moving vehicle, an airbag can cause injuries. When airbags are defective, deploying unexpectedly or with too much force, injuries are likely. While the airbags are meant to protect us in a crash and often do prevent serious injury, they can also harm us. Front airbags were required in cars beginning in 1998. Side airbags are not required by law, but they are usually included as standard equipment in new vehicles. Both front and side airbags can cause injuries.
Here are some of the types of serious injuries that can be caused by airbags:
- Head and neck injuries
- Upper body injuries
- Spinal fractures of the neck
- Broken arms, wrists, hands, and fingers
- Eye damage
- Broken nose
- Broken ribs and fractured sternum
- Bruising and swelling
- Soft tissue and organ damage
- Burns and abrasions
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Asthma and other respiratory conditions and injuries.
Airbags are meant to protect drivers and other vehicle occupants in crashes. Since they began being installed in cars, they’ve done a good job of that. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they have saved tens of thousands of lives. But when airbags are defective, they can be responsible for serious and painful injuries.
How Do Airbag-Related Injuries Happen?
Most serious airbag injuries are due to product defects. Defective airbags can cause injuries by:
- Deploying with excessive force
- Deploying unexpectedly when not in a crash
- Deploying too late
- Not deploying at all
- Firing chemicals and debris at vehicle occupants
Some of these problems are because of defective sensors that don’t send proper signals to the airbag. In the case of Takata airbags, faulty inflators can actually cause airbags to explode upon deployment.
How Bad Do Airbags Hurt?
When an airbag hits you, it can hurt very badly. They deploy with great force—sometimes at more than 200 mph—and can be very hot. The impact and the heat can be very painful. The pain that you may feel depends on all the factors in your accident, including your particular injuries.
Has Anyone Died from an Airbag?
Hundreds of people have been killed by airbags. In the early days of their use, younger children sitting in the front passenger seats of cars suffered the most fatalities. Since that time, safety precautions have reduced the number of people who have died. However, fatalities still can and do happen. There have been at least 26 deaths worldwide related to exploding Takata airbags.
What Should I Do if I am Hurt by an Airbag?
For your own well-being, the very first thing you should do is get medical attention if you are hurt by an airbag. Doctor reports of injuries will also be evidence if you make a legal claim for compensation due to the defective airbag.
Additionally, document the accident by taking photos or video of the accident scene if you are able, including the deployed airbag. If you were in a serious accident that badly wrecked your car, the insurer may want to total the vehicle. Don’t let them do that. Without the airbag and its parts, it will be difficult if not impossible to prove that it caused your injuries. The airbag itself, the sensor, and even the vehicle’s computer should be kept as evidence should you decide to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
Liability in an Airbag Injury Case
Who can be held liable for compensation in an airbag injury case? The airbag manufacturer or car maker may be held liable. But to be successful in a defective airbag case, you’ll have to prove the defect, which can be very difficult. Big companies that make defective products have teams of lawyers on their side who know how to quiet consumer complaints and injury claims. A product liability attorney who handles car accident cases can be of great help in proving liability.
If an airbag injury case is successful, compensation could include payment for:
- Doctor bills, hospital bills, and the cost of other medical treatment for your injuries
- Payment for lost wages while you recuperate
- Money for future lost income if you can’t work anymore
- Pain and suffering for physical pain and emotional trauma
- Wrongful death benefits if a family member died.
If it’s proven that the manufacturer was grossly negligent, you could get punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish at-fault parties so they are less careless in the future.
Even airbags that are working properly can cause injuries. If you feel that your airbag worked properly, but you were not clearly informed by vehicle labels and documentation about proper seating when it comes to airbag safety, you may also have a claim against the car maker, depending on the circumstances.
Safety Tips for Avoiding Airbag Injuries
Here are some tips for increasing airbag safety and avoiding injuries. It takes less than 1/20th of a second for a frontal airbag to deploy. If you’re seated too close to it before it finishes deploying, you could be struck by that excessive force and be severely injured. This is why the NHTSA says that people should take these precautions:
- Sit at least 10” from the steering wheel or passenger dashboard.
- Wear a seatbelt at all times while driving.
- Seat children 12 and under in the back seat.
- Avoid placing rear-facing car seats in the front seat.
Always have airbags that have deployed replaced by a qualified repair center. Airbags are not reusable.
Contact Our Experienced Car Accident Attorneys for Help
You may be feeling confused when you’ve sustained an injury from a product meant to protect you. You could be wondering how such a thing could happen. But as our car accident and product defect attorneys know, they can and do malfunction and hurt people. And innocent consumers shouldn’t pay the financial cost along with the physical one.
If you’ve been injured by an airbag, we can explain your options for compensation once we learn the details of your case. Contact the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000.