Like seat belts, airbags are intended to protect you from more serious injuries during a car accident. However, when an airbag fails to operate as intended it can actually worsen, or add to, the injuries sustained in a car accident.
This was unfortunately the case for a young woman who was tragically killed in a typical fender bender that should have left her with a few simple bruises. At the time she was driving a rental car that had been subject to an airbag recall. During the accident, a metal canister feeding gas into the airbag exploded, sending shrapnel through her body.
While these tragic situations aren't common, they do happen, and they can significantly impact your life and the lives of your loved ones. So, let FindLaw help you understand how car accident airbag injuries happen and what you can do about them.
How Can Airbags Cause Injuries?
When an airbag-equipped vehicle is impacted, sensors determine whether the impact speed is sufficient to trigger the airbag system. If so, a chemical reaction is initiated, filling the airbag with gas, all within a matter of milliseconds. Since the purpose of an airbag is to slow an occupant's forward momentum and not merely bounce them back into their seat, the airbag slowly deflates as it's impacted, absorbing and cushioning an occupant's forward momentum.
In other words, for airbags to be effective, a sequence of complex events must happen at the right time in the fraction of a second following a vehicle impact. It's not impossible, and thousands of lives are saved by frontal air bags each year. However, car accident airbag injuries do occur and can be caused by many factors, including:
- Improper positioning of an occupant
- Malfunction of sensors leading to premature or late inflation
- Failure to deflate
- Exposure to airbag chemicals
When an airbag doesn't operate as designed, it can lead to a number of different injuries, ranging from facial abrasions or burns to neck injuries or worse. But, if you've suffered injuries caused by an airbag system, how does this affect your rights to recover under the law?
Car Accident Airbag Injuries and the Law
If you're the victim of a car accident, there are a number of steps to take in the aftermath to protect your rights. One of those is to try and determine who was responsible for your injuries and therefore liable for your losses.
At first glance, you'll look to the other driver(s) who caused the accident. However, if your injuries were related to the airbags in your car, you may also have a product liability claim against the airbag or vehicle manufacturer, among others. The airbag death discussed above, for example, involved an airbag under recall and ultimately led to a wrongful death suit against the airbag manufacturer, the car manufacturer, and the rental car company.
With a product liability claim, you can seek recovery under a traditional negligence theory or under strict liability, which is much easier to establish. For example, while a negligence claim requires a showing of carelessness on the part of a manufacturer or seller, strict liability only requires proving that:
- A product had an "unreasonably dangerous" defect
- The defect caused your injury(ies) while the product was being used as intended
- The defect existed at the time the product was sold and the product had not been substantially changed or modified after it was sold
Each of these elements can be relatively easy to prove, especially in car accident airbag injury cases where the airbag itself has been subject to a recall.
Discuss Your Car Accident Airbag Injury Case with an Attorney
Car accidents can happen at any time and to anyone who drives. Although airbags can prevent serious injuries in many cases, there are unfortunately times where the airbag itself causes injuries. If you've been injured by an airbag, an experienced attorney specializing in motor vehicle accidents can help you recover for your losses. Reach out to an attorney near you today to discuss your case.