Typically, airbags are known to save lives. This is the reason that from the 1990s, most vehicles are fitted with airbags. Unfortunately, airbags can also injure vehicle occupants, and in some cases, kill them if they get deployed incorrectly, or the canister is defective. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many people are killed by airbags each year, while others sustain significant injuries. Should you sustain injuries or a loved one receives other damages due to a defective airbag, you are entitled to compensation. Speaking to a lawyer will help you understand how to pursue your claim, and to whom the application would be directed. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we are well able to guide you and pursue your claim for you.
Why Airbags Become Defective
Even when an airbag is working correctly, it can cause severe injuries and, in some cases, death, especially when the occupant of the vehicle is a small-bodied adult or a child. This can happen if they are seated within close proximity of the airbag when it deploys. Sometimes, the occupant could be maintaining a safe distance but can still be injured significantly. When an airbag is defective, it may result in:
- Failure in airbag deployment. – Airbags are part of the significant safety features in a vehicle. Sometimes an airbag may refuse to deploy when a crash happens. This may cause the occupant to suffer from injuries that could have been avoided.
- Unnecessary deployment – Not all accidents require for the airbag to deploy. Some collisions are minor, yet an airbag can deploy when not needed. When this happens, they can result in injuries instead of preventing them.
- Oversized airbags – Sometimes, a vehicle may be fitted with a bigger airbag than is necessary. During an impact, it can deploy excessively and violently hit the car occupants causing significant trauma to the head.
- Untethered airbags. – Where the airbag is positioned, and its movement can affect how effective it is.
- Under-inflated airbags – Sometimes, an airbag may be designed and assembled wrongly. This may cause it to inflate wrongly. When the airbag is underinflated, when a crash occurs, it will not be able to protect the occupant from hitting the car’s interior
- Incorrect positioning – Typically, airbags deflate very fast. The correct position is for the airbag to deflate upward but not toward the occupant. When it deflates in the direction of the occupant, it can cause significant trauma to the driver or passenger.
Fortunately, if an airbag is defective and causes injuries, the law allows for the victim or their loved one to seek compensation for the damages. Speaking to a lawyer will assist you in knowing how to follow up on your claim and whom to pursue it against.
Persons at a High Risk of Injuries and the Type of Injuries
Airbags are known to cause more damage to small children and babies. Their size and fragility expose them to significant danger because, ideally, airbags inflate at high speed. The laws in California prohibit minors below the age of 13 from riding at the front of the car. However, even adults and teens also run a risk of sustaining injuries when airbags are defective or are not well maintained. Some of the people that run the risk of injuries from defective airbags include:
- Short and slightly built adults, as well as the aged, run similar risks as minors when it comes to faulty airbags. These individuals, when driving, usually adjust their seats forward for them to reach the controls. When the airbag deflates, they are generally very near the impact point, resulting in substantial injuries.
- Passengers, as well as drivers of any size and age, also risk injuries from defective airbags. When a collision happens, airbags inflate forcefully. The individuals can suffer from chemical burns because of the gas used in inflating the airbags, broken noses, and fractured bones in their hands. The noise made by the airbags as they inflate is also loud and can affect the hearing of the occupant. Facial and eye injuries are also possible, especially with occupants that put on glasses.
- Occupants of a vehicle that disregard putting on their seatbelts or they are defective, unconscious occupants or those seated close to the dashboard sustain serious injuries as well. Most of the injuries will be to the chest, neck, and head where the airbag will hit them directly when it inflates. Other individuals at a high risk are pregnant occupants. The impact of an airbag getting deployed can be so forceful that a pregnant woman can lose their unborn child.
- When airbags are oversensitive, they deploy for minor reasons causing a loud impact and can block the view for the driver. As a result, the driver is unable to see the road clearly and can crash into another vehicle.
- When airbags are rebuilt or recycled, they will not work as they would have before. This can make them overly sensitive and can deploy without reason.
- There are airbag canisters that are known to be defective. These canisters rupture carelessly, resulting in the metal shards injuring and killing the occupants of the vehicle.
Regardless of the circumstances, injuries, or death because of defective airbags can be avoided. This is the reason why airbags are the most recalled products in the automotive industry. Unfortunately, manufacturers continue to use unsafe airbags when manufacturing new vehicles. This is negligence on their part because they allow individuals to drive when one of their safety features can cost them their life.
Preserving your Rights
When you suffer an injury or your loved one does due to a faulty airbag, you can seek compensation for the damages. This is done by filing a claim of liability against the manufacturer of the vehicle or airbag. When you suffer these injuries, preserve both the airbag and the vehicle without repairing them until an expert carries out a thorough inspection of them. Seeking medical attention immediately if one is injured is essential in ensuring all injuries, as a result, are documented. It also increases your chances of a quick recovery.
How Airbags Operate in an Accident Resulting in Injuries
When an accident happens, airbags can react differently due to some of the above-discussed reasons. Their reaction can cause injuries with regard to the weight and position of the vehicle occupants, their seat position, and its ability to adjust its size. Typically, airbags deploy at high speeds of 200mph, making the possibility of injuries significant. The timing of the deployment can lead to injuries. Too late or early deployment can injure the occupants of the vehicle.
Many factors can affect how the airbag deploys. These include:
- The seat position – The seats position affects how timely the airbag deploys, and an occupant gets into a place of contact with it. The sensors from the airbag must detect the seat position and adjust deployment speed. Should the sensors be defective or are not enough, the injuries caused by the deployment can be significant. This is not the fault of the vehicle occupant, and it allows for the victim to seek compensation for the injuries.
- The weight and position of the occupant. – The position the occupant is seated at and their weight affects how the airbag comes into contact with them. Airbags are made with sensors that must adjust to various circumstances. However, these indicators can fail. For example, a small person can be carrying a bag filled with multiple things. This can trick the sensor into thinking that is the person’s weight and deploy the airbag at the wrong speed.
- Failure of the system. – Airbag sensors should also adjust their speed according to the vehicle’s speed and the crash angle. How the car reduces its speed as well as whether the occupants have their safety belts on must be sensed as well. When an occupant does not have a seatbelt on, they will easily move forward when emergency brakes are engaged. This will get them into contact with the airbag still inflating and often leads to substantial injuries or death. When the design of the system is inadequate, it can also lead to injuries.
- The airbag design module – there are general standards for airbag designs as mandated by the NHTSA. However, various manufacturers can modify the designs to that of their choice. Some of these modifications are also responsible for the injuries when the airbag inflates.
- Inflation Volume and Tethering – tethering of an airbag affects the distance the airbag deploys in the car. The volume of inflation and tethering differ from one manufacturer to the other. This can also determine if an occupant suffers injuries and the extent of the damages. Some systems may not be considerate of the various weights and positions of occupants. This often fails in the design, and when a manufacturer fails to give proper warning, it can lead to significant injuries.
- Folding – the folding of an airbag is significant in how it deploys the speed and force at which it does when a crash occurs. The way the airbag is folded can result in injuries to the occupants.
- The substance contained in the airbag – Different airbags are made from different materials. The material used and within the bag can determine the injuries of the occupant and how severe they are. With lighter materials, the injuries can be less significant, while the use of proper materials can prevent them altogether.
- Deployment Angle – the angle the airbag deploys can affect the injuries a victim can sustain. Vertical deployments have been reported to be better compared to horizontal deployment. Should an airbag have lateral-bias flaps, it would help in directing the airbag to one side should it hit something as it inflates. The steering wheel angle can be responsible for directing the bag lower or higher than the motorist’s body. If the airbag, when inflating, can be kept from the neck and head of a driver or occupant, it becomes better for their safety.
- Deployment rate – during a crash, the deployment rate differs based on the weight of the occupants, the position of the seat, and the wrong information on the occupants. If any of these elements are not accurately estimated, inflation can result in substantial injuries and some cases death.
- The deployment threshold – the speed, force, and threshold at which airbags deploy differ from one manufacturer to the next. If the system is not well designed and works well, there is an increased danger of death or injuries.
- Design of the sensor – various variables affect how an airbag should deploy and its speed of inflation. Because of this, sensors use multiple technologies to make this happen. Some use infrared, optical, and for improved deployment, they use electric fields. The kind of sensors and numbers used vary from one manufacturer to the other. These can also determine how the airbag deploys. When there are defects in the sensor system or its design, it can lead to the wrong deployment, among other faults that can be dangerous to vehicle occupants.
- Design purpose limit – during inevitable accidents, airbags may fail to function well. For instance, when hit from the side or during some frontal collisions, the reduction in speed may not be as sudden to trigger an airbag to deploy. Sometimes during rear-end impacts as well as rollovers, airbags may not be effective as well. When this happens, inadequate warning or improper design and defective equipment can result in injuries or death of vehicle occupants.
Injuries and Injury Claims from Defective Airbags
Compensation claims because of airbag damages attract various suggestions. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) has provided a factsheet that details various recommendations and opinions regarding how airbags are used. True, they are useful as a secondary measure in ensuring the safety of the driver and vehicle occupants; they must be well fitted and utilized together with safety belts.
Over the years, airbags have assisted in reducing fatalities when accidents occur, but because of their use of gas propellant and the speed at which they inflate, they come with a number of risks. Airbags can cause a lot of injuries to occupants in a vehicle. Some of the commonly reported injuries include:
- Burns following an airbag combusting
- Issues with respiratory because of the gas propellant that inflates the airbag
- Infection of the eyes because of the propellant
- Loss of hearing due to the loud explosion noise following the inflation of the airbag
- The speed at which they deploy can cause serious impact to an occupant, and he or she sustains chest injuries
- An occupant with cosmetic implants can suffer damages to them
- The effect of an airbag can be so forceful it results in injuries of the heart and the aorta rapture
- Bruising of the face and abrasions
- Neck injuries
- Broken or fractured bones.
When a vehicle occupant suffers any of the above-listed injuries, there is room for a compensation claim to be raised. Typically, people assume for one to institute a suit to be compensated following an airbag injury, you must show negligence on the part of the defendant. Fortunately, this is not true, especially when the airbag is defective because of the law of strict liability in California. This means a victim is not required to show liability when injuries happen.
Based on the law of strict liability, a victim can pursue a claim for compensation against the manufacturer of the airbag, the car, and sometimes the driver in specific circumstances. The law indicates that these parties owe their customers a duty of care. When your vehicle is serviced regularly, the garage should also check to see the airbags are well-positioned and not defective.
For a claim of airbag injury to be validly pursued, there must be evidence showing the presence of unreasonable danger because of the faulty airbag. Some of the critical evidence include:
- Showing the design had a flaw that was dangerous and could lead to fatality
- Showing that the manufacturing of the airbag was substandard
- There were issues on how the airbag was assembled
- When the airbag was fitted, there were various mistakes made
- The manufacturer of the vehicle failed in giving guidance to its users
Sometimes it may seem unrealistic to pursue compensation following damages sustained because of defective airbags. However, based on the law, they should be safe, and proper guidance must be issued to the vehicle users. Over the years, many reported cases of airbag mishaps have been reported causing manufacturers to recall them. The consistent scrutiny on the safety of airbags has led to improved quality and safer products. Although issues on the speed of how they inflate continue to affect lives, more lives have also been saved by the use of airbags.
The law also permits a passenger to sue a driver for compensation if they sustain injuries from an airbag that was poorly maintained. A vehicle owner must ensure the airbags are periodically checked and are familiar with the safety guidelines regarding the airbags. Because of the various issues regarding deployment and inflation of airbags, lack of periodic checks can also be a cause of fault in airbags.
When an accident happens, and an airbag causes injuries, a victim can pursue compensation against defective or faulty airbags. There are two kinds of claims a victim can seek compensation for. A victim can pursue compensation for general damages that take into consideration how severe the injuries are. Some of the factors they consider include:
- Suffering and pain – injuries from a faulty airbag can be very painful to a victim physically and cause enormous amounts of suffering. Nursing an injury until one recovers is not easy, and the suffering and pain a victim endures deserves compensation.
- Mental trauma – some individuals can suffer severe mental anguish following an airbag injury. For instance, if a person lost their eyesight due to the accident, the victim can experience a lot of psychological trauma as a result.
- Life-altering injuries – the impact or the forcefulness of inflation can cause injuries that can alter the life of a victim forever. Some neck injuries sustained can leave the victim paralyzed or needing lifelong rehabilitation. Lost hearing and eyesight are also life-changing injuries that a victim needs compensation for.
The other kind of compensation is that of special damages. This purely relates to current and future economic losses because of the injuries sustained. Some of the general damages to claim for under this include:
- Lost earnings – this can cover both present and future earnings. If the injuries required the victim to miss work for a short time, the income they would have earned over that period is compensated. In more severe cases where a victim loses their ability to make a living, compensation is sought for lost future earnings.
- Medical expenses – injuries will call for a victim to get medical treatment. Every cost associated with the treatment of the injuries currently and in the future is tabulated and compensation sought.
- Additional medical equipment – injuries can result in damages that may require the victim to use other medical equipment or aids such as prosthetic limbs or wheelchairs. These things will also result in medical costs that must be compensated to the victim.
- Home adaptations – some of the life-altering injuries may require a victim to make changes in their homes to navigate through. The cost of these changes to adopt the new needs is also claimable.
- Wrongful death – as earlier indicated, a defective airbag can result in death. The family of the deceased can seek compensation for their life, funeral, and burial expenses, as well as the income the deceased would have earned.
With regards to compensation from defective airbag damages, the degree of injuries is compensated under general damages, while financial liabilities victims face are compensated under special damages.
Evidence Necessary in Defective Airbags Claim
When a person gets injured as a result of a defective airbag, seeking medical treatment is crucial for their wellbeing as well as for their claim. The doctor can document all the injuries the victim suffers and check them thoroughly for any injuries that are not so obvious. This report is crucial when a person is seeking compensation to know the financial damages due to medical care.
Taking photos after the incident is also vital in showing the damages caused and can help explain how the airbag deflated. The presence of a witness and their statement is also helpful when it comes to compensation.
Sometimes the claim may not be straightforward against the car or airbag manufacturer, while other times, the liability can be shared. Regardless, a victim is entitled to seek compensation. Through out-of-court settlement or court trial, a decision can be made on the party liable. In the case of shared liability, this is also established, and compensation sought according to the degree of accountability.
Find a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
Defective airbags have caused significant injuries over the years that leave their victims physically, psychologically, and financially wounded. Although most of the loss cannot be compensated with money, financial compensation goes a long way in assisting victims of the injuries cope with life. Knowing who is liable and pursuing your compensation is imperative for any victim. For this, one requires hiring a lawyer that can aggressively pursue the claim on their behalf. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we are experienced in helping our clients pursue their claims. Call us at 619-478-4059, and let us discuss your complaint in detail.