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How Do Airbag Injuries Happen?

By Butler Prather LLP on April 2, 2019

Airbag malfunctions can turn what should have been a minor accident into a collision with serious consequences for vehicle occupants. When an airbag does not perform as the manufacturer intended, it could fail to prevent occupant injuries. In some cases, a defective airbag could cause injuries the passenger otherwise would not have suffered. Victims of these accidents can potentially recover damages from the manufacturer or another party.

Excessive Force Upon Deployment

Even if an airbag deploys as the manufacturer intended, the general force of the airbag can cause injuries. Although the airbag might have prevented more serious occupant injuries that would have occurred without the airbag’s protection, it can still result in injuries from the bag striking the driver or passenger as he or she flies forward. These injuries could require medical care and significant recovery time.

  • Broken bones in the face or chest
  • Abrasions on the face or upper body
  • Neck sprain or fracture
  • Head injury/concussion
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Eye or ear trauma

Excessive airbag force is especially dangerous for children. This is why experts recommend keeping children in the backseat of a vehicle as long as possible. Sitting in the front passenger seat exposes children to airbag-related injury risks. Manufacturers design airbags to cushion the force from an adult occupant. This force can be too extreme for a child’s body to withstand – resulting in serious or even fatal injuries.

Chemical Injuries

Airbags use sodium azide to trip the chemical reaction that rapidly inflates the bag. A crash sets off a sensor that triggers the ignition of the sodium azide, which causes it to break down into sodium metal and nitrogen gas and inflate the bag. Sometimes, the chemicals in an airbag can lead to reactions such as skin irritation, allergic reactions, or chemical burns. The release of high-temperature gases and irritating chemical substances can cause lesions, dermatitis, and burns, as well as corneal abrasions and other eye injuries.

Dangerous and Defective Airbags

An airbag with design, manufacturing, or marketing defects could put consumer lives at risk. Some airbags may have defective sensors that cause the bag to deploy at the wrong time – either when a crash has not occurred or seconds too late in a crash. The airbag may not deploy at all in an accident, failing to prevent critical injuries. Airbag defects can cause failures that make it impossible for the piece of equipment to prevent injuries in an accident. As a result, the vehicle occupant could suffer broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other injuries a properly working airbag might have prevented.

In extreme cases, a defective airbag could cause fatal injuries in a crash the occupant should have reasonably survived. This has been the case with defective Takata airbags, which have so far caused at least 300 injuries and 24 deaths. Takata has issued a recall on over 56 million airbags for defective inflators. The defect can cause airbag inflators to explode upon deployment, shooting shrapnel into the cab. Exploding Takata airbags have caused serious lacerations and penetration injuries. It is up to consumers to take recalled vehicles in for airbag repairs and replacements.

Airbag injuries from a dangerous defect can come down to manufacturer liability for damages. The laws of product liability hold manufacturers and distributors strictly liable when defective or dangerous products cause consumer injuries. If the plaintiff’s attorney can prove that the airbag contained a defect, and that it caused the plaintiff’s injuries, there will be no need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. The courts will hold the manufacturer responsible even if it reasonably could not have prevented the defect. Work with a product liability lawyer for assistance with these cases in Atlanta.

Posted in: Car Accidents

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