Right Place, Wrong Time: Dealing With Injuries From Defective Airbags

You count on your vehicle's airbags to protect you in the event of a serious accident. Unfortunately, the very devices designed to protect you also have the potential to cause serious injury if they're defective. The following sheds some light on defective airbags, the underlying causes behind defects, and the injuries they could cause to unsuspecting drivers and passengers.

How Airbags Normally Work

Everything about a typical airbag deployment happens in literally the blink of an eye. Specialized crash sensors located throughout your vehicle detect an impact event that's strong enough to warrant airbag deployment. The sensors immediately send signals to a control unit inside the airbag. An igniter inside the airbag triggers a controlled chemical explosion, which in turn rapidly inflates the airbag in as little as 1/20th of a second.

"Gentle" is definitely the wrong term to describe the average airbag deployment. Speed is the key to a successful deployment since everything has to happen the instant an impact occurs. It's no wonder that the average airbag deployment feels more akin to being slammed in the face and chest by the world's hardest pillow.

What Causes Faulty Airbag Deployment

Sadly, there's plenty that can go wrong during an airbag deployment. The airbags can deploy at the wrong time or even fail to deploy at all. The wrong airbags can also deploy during a crash, robbing some passengers of the protection they're counting on against impact forces. In some cases, the airbags can deploy catastrophically, resulting in dangerous metal fragments that injure passengers.

Most faulty airbag deployments can be narrowed down to faulty crash sensors and malfunctioning electronic modules. The likelihood of a malfunction increases if the sensors suffer direct damage or corrosion, as could happen if the vehicle was recently flooded. Manufacturing defects, poor design, and use of cheap materials unable to survive the ravages of time can also set the stage for faulty airbag deployment.

Common Injuries Caused by Defective Airbags

Timing is everything in a typical airbag deployment. If your airbag deploys a split second too early or too late, you could suffer severe injuries or worse due to the faulty deployment, including:

  • Ear trauma, including ruptured eardrums and hearing loss
  • Eye injuries, including corneal tears and retinal abrasions
  • Brain injuries, including concussions
  • Bone fractures and torn ligaments
  • Internal injury and bleeding

The speed of the airbag deployment on its own can cause severe abrasions and burns, especially during a faulty deployment.

Determining Liability for Injuries

If you were injured during a faulty airbag deployment, your first priority is identifying the parties liable for the defective product. In most cases, it's a toss-up between your vehicle's manufacturer, the airbag manufacturer, and the repair shop that last inspected and maintained your airbag system:

  • If the defect resulted from a manufacturing flaw or faulty design, then the airbag manufacturer could be on the hook for damages.
  • If the defect resulted from an unsuitable airbag design or an inherent fault involving the vehicle, then the vehicle manufacturer may also be held liable.
  • If the defect was the result of poor or rushed maintenance on part of the technicians tasked with maintaining your airbag system, then it's the repair shop that assumes liability.

Your best chances of winning just compensation for your injuries relies heavily on physical proof. You may even need to keep possession of the vehicle if the insurance company declares it a total loss. Proving the defendant's negligence becomes difficult without the vehicle present as proof, and crucial data-holding components, including the powertrain control unit and crash sensors, may be wiped or thrown away by dismantlers.

If you are recently injured in an accident due to defective airbags, speaking to an auto accident attorney can help you figure out your course of action and understand your options when it comes to compensation for your injuries.