Airbags help prevent serious injuries and fatalities when car accidents occur, but design flaws and malfunctioning equipment can quickly turn these lifesaving devices into dangerous contraptions that hurt and even kill the very people they are designed to protect. Airbags deploy with enough force and speed that they can cause deep lacerations, break bones, and in some cases, eject deadly projectiles that can penetrate deep within tissue. In most cases, airbags deploy at over 200 miles per hour which is more than sufficient to cause severe trauma to individuals within the vehicle. The risks are especially significant for young children, the elderly, and those with existing health conditions.
Airbag malfunctions can happen for a number of reasons. The most common deployment error is faulty sensors. These sensors can trigger without warning when no accident has occurred, fail to trigger when an accident occurs, or the sensor may delay triggering in the critical moments during a crash. Airbags must deploy quickly because even microseconds can make the difference between a survivable accident and a wrongful death.
Airbag malfunctions are among the most common causes of vehicle recalls. In the past few years, more than 50 million Takata airbags installed on nearly 37 million vehicles were recalled. The recall was prompted because the airbags have a tendency to explode and rupture during a crash. Liability for injuries caused by a malfunctioning or poorly designed airbag may fall upon the vehicle manufacturer, the manufacturer of the faulty component, a car rental company that failed to repair the known defect, etc.
Common Airbag Injuries
Abrasions and lacerations are common airbag injuries that can sting and cause significant pain. These injuries can cause permanent disfigurement. Internally, the chemicals used to inflate airbags can cause irritation within the sinuses and lungs and have in some instances triggered asthma attacks. The rapid speed and force of deployment can also cause eye injuries; a risk which increases if components within the system puncture the airbag and enter the passenger cabin of the vehicle.
The Proliferation of Airbags
Driver side and front seat passenger airbags are standard features on most automobiles, however, many newer models now have curtain airbags on the sides, roof, and rear of the vehicle. More airbags within passenger cars, trucks, and SUV’s create greater potential for airbag injuries.