Just as you assume your seatbelt will protect you in the event of an accident, there's a reasonable expectation that traveling in a vehicle equipped with the latest model airbags will prevent injuries. However, this isn't always the case. Your airbag may fail to deploy when necessary or deploy unexpectedly. Either way, the manufacturer may be held liable for your injuries.
Airbag Safety Guidelines
Every passenger car with a 1998 model year or newer is legally required to have frontal airbags for the driver as well as for the right front passenger seating position. Pickups, vans, and SUVs with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 lbs. or less with a model year of 1999 or newer are required to have front driver and passenger airbags, as well.
Side-impact and rollover airbags are not required by law but are offered as either standard or optional features by some vehicle manufacturers. You can consult your vehicle owner's manual to learn if your car is equipped with these types of airbags.
When Should My Airbags Deploy?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), your vehicle's frontal airbags should deploy in moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal accidents. For regulatory purposes, this is defined as an accident equivalent to hitting a solid, fixed barrier at speeds of 8 to 14 mph or higher or colliding with a parked car of similar size at 16 to 28 mph or higher.
Airbags are not intended to deploy in every auto accident. An airbag can inflate at speeds of up to 200 mph. The force involved in airbag deployment can cause more harm than good if the accident is relatively minor. Airbags should not deploy in:
- Minor frontal accidents
- Side impact, rear impact, or rollover accidents with no significant deceleration from front to back
- Accidents involving deer, dogs, or other small animals
- Impacts with street curbs, signs, or parking blocks
- When you're driving on roads with gravel, bumps, or large potholes
Types of Airbag Injuries
Airbags are designed to protect you from head and chest injuries in the event of a head-on collision. Some examples of these types of injuries include
- Fractured ribs
- Skull fracture
- Bleeding in the brain
- Nerve damage or other spinal cord injuries
- Spleen, liver, and/or kidney damage
If an airbag deploys when it shouldn't, some of the injuries that can result include:
- Chest or hand burns
- Face, chest, or upper extremity abrasions
- Strains and fractures in face, upper extremities, or wrist
- Concussion or other brain injuries
- Eye injuries such as retinal abrasions and corneal tears
- Internal bleeding
- Hearing loss or ear trauma
Liability for Defective Airbags
Manufacturers can be held liable if your injuries were caused by a defective airbag that either failed to inflate or inflated when it should not have. The link between the airbag and your injuries can be proven with expert testimony, computer simulations, a review of your medical records, and comparisons to similar accidents. If the manufacturer is found liable for your injuries, you are entitled to compensation for accident-related medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The largest example of liability for airbag-related accidents is the Takata recall. Defective Takata airbags have resulted in at least 13 deaths and over 100 serious injuries. Initially, the 2008 recall included 24 million vehicles from 14 different manufacturers sold to consumers since 2000. However, an additional 40 million vehicles with defective airbags were added to the Takata recall in May 2016.
Seeking Legal Representation
If you've suffered injuries that you believe are related to a faulty airbag, seeking experienced legal representation is a must. Defective airbag cases require extensive documentation and a high burden of proof. Many cases are eventually settled out of court, but this is difficult to do without a committed advocate on your side.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, so you can be assured of quality representation with no upfront cost. Please call 318-561-2500, or complete our online contact form to learn more about how we can assist you in obtaining a fair settlement.