The main concern in the auto market today is the safety of the vehicle occupants in the event of a car accident. Airbags are one of the safety features in vehicles, and they deploy at the time of impact to cushion you from the force. Although the devices have saved many lives, they don’t always live to their expectations. The reason being defective devices can cause injuries or death. If a defective airbag has injured you, the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney is here to help you understand your options when seeking compensation.
Statistics Relating to Airbags
Many Californians rely on their vehicles to keep them safe in case of a collision. It is the reason why many car manufacturers are equipping modern cars with safety features like seat belts and airbags. These safety features protect your head or body from slamming into hard surfaces during a collision.
The United States made it mandatory for all cars being sold in the country to be equipped with airbags, also known as supplemental restraint systems. The restraint system was designed to work with safety belts on the passenger and driver seats.
Based on NHTSA statistics, front supplemental restraint systems have saved twenty-five thousand, seven hundred, and eighty-two lives between 1987 and 2008. Additionally, between 2011 and 2015, the supplemental restraint systems have saved 12,134 lives in the U.S. The statistics demonstrate that a combination of safety belts and airbags have reduced fatalities in car accidents by 61 percent contrasted to occupants of a vehicle not equipped with airbags.
Yet, airbags are not safe because, according to the NHTSA report, the country experienced 284 fatalities stemming from defective airbags between 1990 and 2007. Manufacturing and design errors are the reason for the faulty airbags. Airbag defects have become very prevalent hence the basis for many recalls being experienced in the market. When a defective airbag fails to deploy upon impact or deploys with a disproportionate impact, it can cause severe injuries or even death.
Types of Airbags
Car manufacturers today provide a variety of supplemental restraint systems. Some of the airbags available in vehicles today include:
Frontal airbags were the first airbags to be designed, and they have remained in the market since then. The bags cushion the driver and front passengers from the force after a collision. Front airbags for the driver deploy from the steering wheel while those of the front passengers deploy from the dashboard.
Side and Roof Airbags
Side and roof airbags protect car occupants during rear-end or side-impact crashes. They are fitted on the side of the seat, roof, or door, and they offer extra protection. They are different from frontal airbags that cushion occupants from colliding with the dashboard and the steering wheel. Side and roof airbags protect occupants from rollover accidents. These bags reduce the risk of head, pelvis, or chest injuries.
In incidences where there is a head-on car collision, the knees can shatter from the impact. For this reason, cars are fitted with knee airbags to protect the knees from shattering upon impact. They are installed below the dashboard because, in the event of a head-on collision, front car occupants and the driver are at a higher risk of sustaining knee injuries.
How Airbags Work
Airbags help in preventing head injuries. When an accident occurs, the air-filled pillow deploys, which means your head slams on the airbag, and it’s safer than slamming the head on the interior of your vehicle. The airbag only deploys if a collision occurs when the car is moving at a speed of 15mph.
When a collision occurs, before your head slams on the dashboard or steering, nitrogen gas inflates the nylon fabric bag which cushions you from the force.
You should note that if the bag inflates at an explosive force, it can cause severe injuries because it is not necessarily a soft pillow. If you are too close to the airbag when it inflates, if it deploys rapidly, it can cause serious injuries. It is for this reason why car manufacturers advise drivers to sit far back from the steering wheel as possible and have a safety belt on.
Besides, supplemental restraint systems for children and infants should also not be placed in front of airbags because deactivating the airbag might be a problem.
Take note that before deployment, there is a chain of events that happens after sudden deceleration of the vehicle. And when this chain of events fails to complete or if the design is poor, injuries occur. The chain consists of:
Airbags can be wired to various sensors like pressure, impact sensors, or accelerometers. When there is sudden braking or a collision of an average of 15mph, the sensors can detect. They can detect sudden deceleration from different angles. The reason being they are installed in front of the car, passenger compartment, the door sill, or pillar. Vehicles should be fitted with multiple sensors because a single sensor can misjudge the need for the airbag to deploy. This might make the airbag deploy too early, too late, or not to deploy at all, which causes severe injuries. Having multiple sensors and even backup sensors is advisable.
Take note that having defective or a single sensor in your car may result in injuries stemming from the airbag. If you suspect your injuries are airbag-related, a Los Angeles defective airbag attorney can help you prove that the injuries were due to faulty sensors, thus resulting in compensation from the manufacturer.
Electronic Control Unit (ECU)
The ECU acts as the command center in the chain of events that result in the deployment of airbags. It is located in the middle of the car, and when a sensor detects a problem, it sends a signal. The signal received by the ECU then alerts the inflator, which deploys the airbag. Sometimes, ECU processes information from the sensor based on the position of the seat, the weight of the occupant on the seat, and the use of seat belts. These factors are the ones that affect deployment and how rapidly the airbag deploys.
If the ECU processes this information wrongly, the airbag might deploy at a very high speed or low speed, thus causing injuries to the vehicle occupants.
When the ECU alerts the inflator of a possible problem, an accompaniment kindles a propellant causing a chemical reaction that emits nitrogen or argon gas that goes through the filter to the nylon fabric bag. The process occurs in 1/20th of a second, and it makes the bag inflate, thus resulting in deployment.
Keep in mind that side airbags inflate first than the front ones because the distance between the side of the passenger is shorter than the front. If the deployment is highly rapid, it can cause injuries. When an airbag deploys, you are likely to see some smoke. The smoke is due to starch powder, which is the one that enables the folded nylon bag to unfold.
The last chain of events is the deflation of the nylon fabric bag. Deflation should take a matter of seconds to allow vehicle occupants to exit or move. If side airbags have deployed after the crash, you will have to wait for extra seconds because they stay inflated in case the car rolls over. After deployment, an airbag should no longer be used. You should get it replaced before using the vehicle again.
Scenarios Where Airbags Can Cause Injuries or Wrongful Death
Airbags are supposed to enhance safety in a vehicle, but at times, they fail to keep the promise. However, despite the success rate, faulty airbags can cause injuries or death, especially to infants or children. There are several scenarios when these devices cause injuries or fatalities. Some of the situations are:
Airbag Deployment Failure
Sometimes, when an accident happens, a defective airbag might fail to inflate upon receiving an alert from the ECU. When this happens, the airbag fails to deploy, meaning the occupants of the vehicle are denied the protection they expected, resulting in traumatic injuries.
When the sensors in a vehicle malfunction or you have a single sensor in your vehicle, the airbag is likely to be oversensitive. This means that it can inflate and deploy in a minor collision or when there is no need to deploy. If it deploys at the wrong time, it might block your vision as a driver causing accidents that could have been avoided were it not for the unnecessary deployment. In case you sustain injuries from such a scenario, you can file a personal injury claim against the people responsible.
Sometimes, the designer of airbags or installers might not do it the right way, which can make the bag fail to inflate correctly. If the gas in the fabric bag isn’t enough to cushion you from the force, then you are likely to slam your head on the hard surface of the interior of your car, causing injuries.
The larger the size of the airbag, the more the impact it will have upon deployment. So, if your vehicle has oversized airbags, they might be overly powerful, which might result in serious head injuries.
If the impact in a collision is very high when the airbag deploys, it might explode, releasing metal shrapnel fragments that might cause serious head injuries.
One of the major deployment errors is when the crash sensor malfunction. Several things can go wrong with the sensor. These are:
A faulty sensor might deploy at the wrong time even when there is no crash
The sensor might fail to deploy the airbag at all during a crash
The sensor might deploy one airbag and not the other
The sensor might deploy an airbag but when it’s too late
Keep in mind that the timing of deployment of an airbag even in a fraction of second can be too late and cause traumatic injuries.
What to Do after the Above Scenarios
A defective airbag can cause injuries in different situations, some of which are listed above. If you find yourself in any of the above scenarios and suffer severe injuries, there are certain things you should do to improve the chances of receiving compensation. These things include:
Get a Medical Examination
If you find yourself in any of the scenarios listed above and you are conscious, you should check to see if you have sustained any injuries. You should also check on other passengers in the vehicle to see if they are alright. In case you have injuries or an occupant of the car is injured, you should seek medical attention first. Because you are not allowed to drive the car again after the airbag has deployed, you can call 911 for help.
Even if you don’t suffer any injuries, going for a medical examination is important to prevent delayed symptoms from turning into serious injuries.
Turn Off the Engine
Some car models have a mechanism of turning off the engine right after the airbag deploys. This happens to prevent fire or explosion in case of an oil leak. If your vehicle doesn’t have the mechanism, you will have to turn off the engine if it’s still running and exit the car carefully. Safely exiting the vehicle means checking your surrounding for oncoming traffic so that you can only get out when the road is clear. If you decide not to call 911 for help, make sure you preserve the evidence and leave the car in a safe location. You can request a tow truck company to remove the vehicle from the scene.
Consult the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney
In the event of a car accident and an airbag malfunctions, you are going to sustain serious injuries. A faulty airbag can injure the vehicle occupants in different ways or even result in a fatal accident. If you or someone you know suffers injuries because of defective airbags, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney. With the help of the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney, you can sue even the big fish car manufacturers without any fear.
Defective Airbags and Personal Injury
A faulty airbag can cause serious injuries. Even one that is not faulty can correspondingly cause injuries upon deployment. Some of the injuries linked to defective airbags include:
Eye injuries like lens damage
Loss of limb
Head, neck and spinal cord injuries
If the airbag is defective and malfunctions during deployment, it can cause second-degree chemical burns, punctures, throat damage, paralysis, loss of limb, or paralysis. If a low-speed collision occurs, deployment can cause a blood vessel to rupture or cause other internal injuries whose symptoms you might not notice right after the crash. The damages can result in long term mental, financial, and physical health problems. For this reason, you should go for a medical examination after the accident.
Airbag-related injuries can deny you life enjoyment, income, and result in financial issues because most of the money goes to cover medical bills. Victims who suffer injuries because of defective airbags feel a lot of anger for having to suffer mentally, financially, and physically because of the negligence of a manufacturing company. As such, you should sue the parties responsible for the defects for compensation so that you can get your life back together.
Determining Liability in Airbag-Related Injuries
For you to win an airbag defect case, you must identify the parties responsible for your injuries. This is where an injury attorney comes in because a thorough investigation is required to spot the negligent party. Remember, airbags must be designed, manufactured, and installed properly as per government regulations. In general, everybody involved in the design, production, sale, or installation of a defective airbag has a legal duty to provide customers with a safe product.
You will need an attorney to investigate the case and find the reason for the airbag defect that caused your injuries. After seeing the reason for the error, it becomes easy to trace the person responsible for the damages. Some of the parties you can hold answerable for the airbag defect injuries are:
Designer or Manufacturer of the Airbag
The first party you can sue in a personal injury claim is the manufacturer of the defective part. Take note that when filing a suit against the manufacturer, you are not proving negligence. Instead, you want to confirm that the defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold airbags or its components, and the product was defective. You must also show that before the airbag left the hands of the defendant, it was faulty and that you used the defective airbag in a sensibly foreseeable means before sustaining injuries stemming from the defects.
If there is a similar case involving airbags by the same manufacturer, it will be easy to show the defect existed. But you will need expert witnesses to prove that the airbag is defective because a recall isn’t enough to determine deficiencies.
Body or Dealer Shop
An airbag will not work properly if the installation happens incorrectly. Not all technicians in these auto shops have the right training to conduct a proper airbag installation. If such a technician installs the airbag, but it fails to deploy, under-inflates, or inflates with excessive force, the dealer outlet will be liable for the injuries. If you want your airbag installed the right way, you should buy a replacement from an authorized dealer so that they can perform a proper installation.
Similarly, dealer shops can be held responsible for selling counterfeit or recycled airbags. Remember, airbags should not be reused after deployment, but some shops refold them as if they were never deployed and then sell them. Other times dealer shops might sell counterfeit at lower prices or un-deployed airbags from car wreckages.
As per federal regulations, cars should have a warning label on the safe usage of airbags. Some vehicle owners dislike these warning labels and might remove them. If you buy a vehicle without the warning label and someone suffers injuries because of the missing warning, the person who sold the car to you will be responsible for the damages.
Comparative Negligence in Airbag Defect Injuries
At times, you might be the person partly to blame for your injuries. Car manufacturers and auto repair shops like to blame the injuries on the car owner for failing to use the airbags properly. They might present evidence like a missing warning label in the car to show that you ignored or removed the warning hence the source of the injuries.
If the defendant can show that you share a certain percentage of the blame for your injuries, the amount of compensation to be awarded will reduce by that percentage. You will receive benefits but only for the portion of liability by the defendant. It means as a plaintiff, even if you failed to use the airbag, which caused the injuries properly, you will still receive compensation.
Available Damages for Defective Airbag Injuries
Airbag-related injuries are costly, hence the reason you should file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for various costs that you sustain after a car accident. You will receive economic damages for verifiable financial losses incurred due to defective airbag injuries. These damages can include medical expenses and lost wages.
Keep in mind that after the injuries, you are not likely to go back to work. During the time you are out of work, you might not be getting any income hence the need to receive compensation for loss of income.
In other incidences, defective airbag injuries can cause personal harm that is hard to assign a dollar value. You receive non-economic damages as compensation. Non-economic costs include disfigurement, pain, mental anguish, and loss of life enjoyment.
Find a Defective Airbag Injury Attorney Near Me
If you or someone you know sustains defective airbag injuries after a car accident, you need to reach out to the Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney at 424-237-3600. Our attorneys understand that defective airbag car accidents can be confusing. For this reason, we are available to provide the skills and resources you need to identify the liable parties and receive maximum compensation.