The safety restraints known as airbags are supposed to save lives in an auto accident, but abruptly inflating to shield car occupants. But when they’re defective, airbags actually can cause severe injuries and even death. Victims’ families then have a right to seek payments for losses by means of a defective airbag lawsuit.
Deployed by crash sensors and an electronic control unit (ECU), folded airbag modules are designed to inflate instantly and cushion an impact for a vehicle’s driver or passengers upon an accident. They are intended to supplement seat belts, not replace seat belts as autos’ primary safety restraint.
Over the years, airbags have been installed in a variety of places, including head side-impact airbags to protect the head in a side impact; seat-mounted curtain airbags to shield passengers in both the rear and front seats; rear curtain shield airbags; knee airbags; center airbags; and side curtain airbags.
All such airbags essentially have the purpose of providing extra safety to a driver or passengers in a traffic accident or crash by lessening the risk of their upper body or head hitting the interior of the vehicle. They’re considered supplemental safety devices to seat belts and other safety elements.
Airbags deploy based on sensors inside the vehicle which can trigger airbag deployment when the vehicle suddenly decelerates.
Unfortunately, such airbags can fail and thus cause injuries themselves. In these cases, a defective airbag lawsuit may be necessary.
The first airbags for vehicles were designed in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that American automakers began installing early versions in vehicles. Almost from the start, problems arose, with at least one fatality attributed to a defective airbag.
Airbags became fairly common in the 1980s. The federal government required all vehicles made after April 1, 1989, to have automatic seat belts (since abandoned) or driver’s side airbags. In 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called for all cars to have dual front airbags.
Federal government statistics indicate that since then, airbags have spared more than 24,000 people from death.
The chief problem with airbags is that sometimes they fail. That is, they may fail to activate fully or at all in a crash, or they may activate or deploy prematurely when there’s no crash.
If an airbag fails to deploy in a crash, occupants can be severely injured or killed. In fact, according to the NHTSA, between the years 1990 and 2007, defective airbags killed 284 persons, of which 180 were children. That’s not to mention thousands of airbag injuries.
Clearly, small children are especially endangered by airbags — sometimes even by fully functioning airbags. Children in the front seat of a vehicle are more apt to be harmed by an airbag, particularly if the front seat is pushed forward too far.
A vehicle owner may have no idea that their vehicle has a defective airbag system until it’s too late. Then, a failed airbag can be extremely dangerous, as evidenced by the rising number of fatalities and injuries due to defective airbags.
That’s not to say airbags haven’t saved many lives when they function properly. Fully functioning airbags can be essential in sparing vehicle occupants from serious injury or death in an accident.
But defective airbags also can lead to severe injuries including traumatic brain injury, broken bones, paralysis and other debilitating injuries. Airbag injuries also can include asthma attacks, airbag burns, decapitation, blindness and hearing loss.
Airbag burns can arise due to chemicals involved in inflating an airbag or hot gas venting from an inflating airbag, as well as abrasion from sudden contact with an airbag’s material.
To date, many airbags have been the subject of a defective airbag recall. Early in 2012, Honda recalled some of its Crosstour and Accord cars when it was found that side airbags might not inflate in a collision. A month earlier, Honda recalled over 300,000 of its vehicles worldwide due to airbags which could inflate in a collision with too much pressure.
Ford Motor Co. also has issued a defective airbag recall involving over a million F-150 pickup trucks, and GM has recalled over 38,000 Pontiac G8 vehicles to reprogram airbags. Nissan and other automakers also have had to issue defective airbag recalls.
When a defective product such as an airbag causes harm, consumers have a legal remedy. They can file a defective product lawsuit or, in this case, a defective airbag lawsuit in order to claim financial compensation for their airbag injury losses.
Such losses can include medical costs, lost salary — both present and future — and pain and suffering due to a defective airbag injury. These are considered compensatory damages. Also, the families of those killed by defective airbags may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer.
Victims also can seek punitive damages for an airbag accident injury. Such damages are in addition to compensatory damages and are meant to punish a defendant for extreme negligence and to help ensure more failures aren’t tolerated.
Should you want to pursue a defective airbag lawsuit, you can get the legal help you need from a defective airbag lawyer, personal injury lawyer, defective products attorney or product liability lawyer with the Willis Law Firm.
This may mean confronting an insurance company which tries to deny, delay or underpay your rightful claim to compensation based on the policy for which you paid. It also may mean suing a manufacturer of a defective airbag for negligence.
Such lawsuits waged by a defective airbag lawyer can seek economic recovery for victims — as well as a sense of justice — after a defective airbag accident injury.