Airbag-related Injuries and the Right to Sue

In an accident, an airbag can save your life, but some airbags might cause injuries if they’re defective. Airbags can injure you and your passengers if they malfunction during an accident or deploy without a collision. If this happens to you, there may be legal avenues to pursue compensation for your injuries.

Airbag Injuries Overview 

Airbags are made from a light fabric with a gas trigger and crash detection system. When the system detects a crash, it releases a burst of gas into the airbag to blow it up and protect the occupant. This all happens in a split-second, and the bags deflate just as quickly. The airbags also release at speeds of over 100 mph.

If it happens correctly, the airbag will deploy and protect the occupant right when he or she is about to slam into the steering wheel or dashboard. When something malfunctions in the airbag system, or they deploy without a crash occurring, the potential for injuries is substantial.

Below are some possible injuries related to faulty airbags: 

  • bruising;
  • burns;
  • broken bones;
  • eye injuries;
  • traumatic brain injury;
  • internal bleeding; and
  • broken ribs. 

Faulty airbags also cause death. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) reports that between 1990 and 2007, there were 284 deaths attributed to airbags. Twenty-eight of these deaths were from children sitting in rear-facing car seats in the front seat of the vehicle. Car seats should always be in the back seat; it’s safest for children to ride in the back until they’re at least 12 years old.

The Legal Basis for a Lawsuit to Cover These Injuries 

Car and parts manufacturers have a duty to design products safely for reasonably foreseeable uses. Since it’s reasonably foreseeable that the car may be in an accident, the duty extends to ensuring the airbags work properly. All cars need to meet a reasonable standard of “crashworthiness.”

The claims conform to common personal injury standards as well. In any personal injury lawsuit, there needs to be: 

  • a duty of care between the parties (such as that owed by car and parts manufacturers to customers);
  • a breach of that duty by the defendant (the manufacturer);
  • the breach caused the injuries(the airbag malfunctioned, deploying without any collision, and the driver suffered a broken nose as a result); and
  • the plaintiff suffered damages(medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering). 

Keep in mind that minor injuries related to normal airbag deployment may not be compensable via a lawsuit against an airbag or vehicle manufacturer (they may be compensable in other insurance claims depending on your coverage, though). The benefit the airbag provides during an accident overshadows the risk of these minor injuries.

However, if during normal deployment during an accident the airbag also ejects various debris that injures the occupants, for example, it may warrant seeking compensation from the airbag or vehicle manufacturer. In fact, in 2013 several Japanese automakers recalled millions of vehicles related to a risk of fire as well as risk of ejection of metal fragments during airbag deployment.

What are some challenges to proving my case? 

It can be difficult in some cases to prove causality between the malfunctioning airbag and the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff may need an expert familiar with faulty airbags to testify about the defectiveness of the airbag, or an expert who can testify that other trauma in the accident didn’t cause the injuries.

After any accident, the plaintiff should preserve evidence, this can include the: 

  • accident report;
  • witness testimony;
  • medical records; and
  • damaged vehicle. 

Many cars come equipped today with “black box” computers. If the plaintiff is trying to prove that the airbags deployed when there was no accident, the black box data can prove invaluable.

There are other considerations in these cases. If you believe you have a faulty airbags case, hire an attorney to represent your legal rights and help you build your case. Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help you assert your rights. Contact our office at 800-550-0000 to schedule your free consultation.

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