Airbags play a crucial role in reducing the risk of injury in a car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, airbags saved more than 50,000 lives between 1987 and 2017.
There are instances when these devices can cause serious injuries, so it's essential to understand the potential injuries and the legal options available. Whether due to a defective product like a malfunctioning airbag or a faulty seat belt, help is available after an injury.
This article focuses on injuries caused by airbags. It covers how airbags work, common injuries, and the types of damages a person can recover in a personal injury lawsuit.
How Airbags Work
An airbag system operates through crash sensors. These detect a collision and send a signal to an igniter. The igniter then releases gas, causing the airbag to inflate.
The goal is to cushion the vehicle occupants from a severe impact against the car's interior. This is especially true for those in the front seat. Airbags protect the driver against impacts with the steering wheel.
Potential Airbag Defects
Most airbags are safe. The auto manufacturer installs them and in most cases, they work as designed. The point of installing airbags is to cushion the blow of an impact should you get into an accident.
If your airbags don't function as they should, you can end up with serious injuries. Some of the ways in which your airbags may be defective include:
- Airbags don't deploy upon impact
- Airbags deploy at random times
- Sensors on your car deploys the airbag too aggressively
- One airbag works while the other doesn't
- Faulty wiring
- Explosions upon impact
The way most people learn of an airbag defect is by suffering injuries during a collision. We will discuss the most common types of airbag injuries below.
Common Airbag Injuries
Airbags are supposed to protect you from injury if you get into an accident. When deployed as intended, an airbag cushions your face, neck, and chest. This helps you avoid being cut from shattering glass. It also protects you from smashing your face into the steering wheel.
When an airbag doesn't operate as designed, your body is at the mercy of the accident impact. Your face, neck, and chest will be vulnerable to crushing steel and broken glass. There are also some airbags designed to protect knees.
The following severe injuries can result from defective airbags:
- Abrasions, often on the face and arms
- Facial fractures or other broken bones
- Eye injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Chemical burns
- Abrasions and contusions
- Lung damages
Any of these injuries can prove to be quite serious, even life-threatening. If you were involved in a car crash and your airbags didn't work, contacting a personal injury attorney is a good idea.
Damages Available for a Personal Injury Claim
Compensation from a personal injury case can help offset the financial toll these incidents carry. Types of damages available include:
- Current Medical Bills: These encompass all costs related to treating airbag injuries. This includes hospitalization, surgeries, medications, and other treatments.
- Future Medical Expenses: Airbag injuries can lead to long-term or permanent disabilities. You might need ongoing medical care. This includes therapy and rehabilitation.
- Lost Wages: Compensation for the income lost while the injured party recuperates.
- Lost Future Earnings: If the airbag injuries prevent you from returning to work or limit your capacity to earn at the same level as before the accident.
- Pain and Suffering: This is a non-economic damage. It aims to compensate you for the physical pain and emotional distress experienced due to airbag injuries. Factors considered include the severity of the pain, the duration, and the type of injury.
- Loss of Consortium: Airbag injuries can impact your relationship with your spouse or family. You might be eligible for damages for loss of companionship and affection.
- Property Damage: This covers the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle. It also covers the cost of any other personal property damaged in the accident.
- Punitive Damages: In cases where the airbag malfunction was due to egregious negligence, the court might award punitive damages. These punish the at-fault party and deter similar behavior in the future.
In extreme cases, the impact can cause fatal injuries. Issues like shrapnel from a malfunctioning igniter, as seen in the infamous Takata airbag recall, can lead to tragic consequences for front-seat passengers.
Wrongful Death Claims
In the event of a death resulting from a defective or malfunctioning airbag, the surviving family members may have grounds to file a wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the survivors' loss. This includes lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.
- Who Can File: In most cases, immediate family members can file. This includes spouses, children, or parents of unmarried children. Distant family members, life partners, or financial dependents might also be eligible.
- Against Whom: Potential defendants in a wrongful death claim can range from the airbag manufacturer, the car manufacturer, or an auto servicer who may have mishandled the airbag system. Another at-fault driver could also be liable if their negligence led to the accident.
- Evidence Requirement: Plaintiffs must prove that the defendant's negligence or misconduct caused the death.
- Compensation: Compensation in wrongful death claims can cover economic losses. These include funeral expenses, medical bills, and the deceased's future earnings. It can also cover non-economic damages like pain and suffering or loss of consortium.
Consult with a personal injury lawyer experienced in car accident cases to learn how you could be compensated.
Airbag injuries raise the question: Who is at fault?
- The Airbag Manufacturer: If an airbag malfunction or defect caused the injury, the victim can file a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
- Auto Servicers: If a vehicle has undergone servicing and the mechanic replaced or handled the airbags, the servicer might bear responsibility if the system wasn't correctly reinstalled or maintained.
- Vehicle Owner's Responsibility: Car owners must heed recalls and maintain their vehicle's safety features. Neglecting recalls or warning signs of a faulty airbag can impact liability.
If another driver's negligence led to the car crash, that driver might bear some responsibility for the injuries you sustained. Due to their negligence in causing the crash that triggered a faulty airbag, they could be at fault.
Seeking Legal Aid
Airbags are a pivotal safety feature in modern vehicles, but like any technology, they aren't without risks. Airbag injuries are serious, whether due to a defective product or a malfunctioning system. Understanding common injuries and seeking professional legal advice can make all the difference in a car accident claim.
An experienced product liability lawyer can guide you in determining liability in an airbag deployment gone wrong, whether it's the airbag manufacturer, the car manufacturer, or an auto servicer.
They can help you navigate a product liability case or other personal injury claim. A successful claim can help compensate you for medical bills and other related costs.