In this blog, we have frequently spoken about technological advancements in the automobile industry intended to make driving safer for the motoring public. Many of these safety features are designed to help prevent accidents, and according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they’re rather effective.
Many improvements in automobile technology aimed at improving safety are made with the proactive assumption that crashes will occur. While airbag technology is a significant advancement, there are still times when people are injured and killed in automobile accidents, notwithstanding the presence of airbags. This article will discuss airbags and how they can cause injuries.
Brief History of Airbags
Some younger drivers may have never driven a car without an airbag. Others can remember when this technology came onto the scene with great fanfare. Early patents for airbags were obtained in the 1950s and 1960s. Commercial use of airbags started in the early 1970s. Since 1999, frontal airbags have been required in passenger vehicles. Side airbags are not required by law but are standard in some cars and available as options in some makes and models.
How Do Airbags Work?
In an automobile crash, uninflated airbags have sensors to measure the severity of the impact. If the severity reaches a predetermined level, the sensors send a signal to an inflator that causes the airbag to inflate almost instantaneously. The inflated airbag protects the automobile driver or occupants from hitting things inside and outside the vehicle.
Importance of Airbags
According to NHTSA, frontal airbags saved an estimated 50,457 lives from 1987 to 2017. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), frontal airbags decrease driver fatality rates by 29 percent. The fatality rate for front-seat passengers (older than 12) is decreased by 32%. Side airbags that protect the head also considerably reduce a driver’s chances of death.
Common Airbag Injuries in Auto Accidents
Altogether, airbags prevent more injuries than they cause. However, because they deploy so quickly, erupting at a breakneck 1/20th of a second, an airbag that deploys too late, contains shrapnel, or deploys when there was no crash detected, airbags can cause a number of injuries in some circumstances.
Head and Neck Injuries
Head injuries are a serious matter; extreme force from a deployed airbag can knock a person’s head back in the event of an auto accident. This sudden motion of the head might cause whiplash or traumatic brain injury.
Facial injuries are also a possible outcome of a misplaced or incorrect airbag deployment. From minor cuts and bruises to burst eardrums, leading to loss of hearing, to broken bones or eye injury, the face is often where airbag-related injuries, if any, are likely to occur.
In some cases, head or neck injuries may take time to develop before they’re actually noticeable. Even if someone does not think they’ve been injured, it’s critical that they see a doctor if they begin to show signs of a traumatic brain injury.
Hand and Wrist Injuries
With their hands and wrists so close to the steering wheel, where the airbag deploys, hand and wrist injuries are common. The speed at which an airbag inflates could cause scratches or burns from the resulting friction. At worst, the cushion could also fracture or dislocate joints in the hands or wrists, especially the delicate bones in the human finger.
When an airbag rams into a person’s chest, fractured ribs, internal bleeding, or even heart problems can occur. As with other auto accidents, the force of a seatbelt pulling someone back combined with the pressure of the airbag may result in bruising – though it is still crucial to wear a seatbelt regardless.
When Airbags Don’t Deploy
Sometimes, an airbag is meant to go off in a case where doing so would have been helpful to the driver or passenger, but it does not. When this happens, a person may injure themselves on the steering wheel, the dashboard, or the windshield.
Who is legally liable when an airbag doesn’t inflate?
In the cases of airbag non-deployment, the usual cause is a defective crash sensor. Usually, in these cases, the vehicle manufacturer would be legally responsible for the injury if they had not disclosed or recalled the faulty part – potentially leading to a product liability lawsuit.
Through the years, many recalls have been instituted to address this issue. In fact, the Takata airbag recall is the largest recall in American history. In some instances, these Takata airbags, when exposed long-term to heat and humidity, could explode when deployed. Millions of these recalled cars still have not had their airbags replaced.
In some cases, where a vehicle is older and may be losing some of its functionality, a regularly visited repair shop might be considered responsible if they had not detected a possible fault in the system. If a car were repaired after a crash, a mechanic would need to install new airbags if the old ones were deployed. The repair shop must use the original equipment, or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts.
If the mechanic cut corners on the repair and installed third-party or counterfeit parts, they may be responsible for the improper inflation of the airbag.
Call with Questions About Your Oregon Auto Accident
We know you will have questions if you have been injured in an automobile accident or believe a faulty airbag has wounded you. The experienced auto accident and personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have experience with these issues and will happily answer your questions in a free consultation.