Can You File a Claim for Compensation Due to Airbag Injuries?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on June 4, 2024 in Car Accidents

crash dummy in stock image showing how airbags workAirbags add a vital layer of protection during a car crash, but what if something goes wrong? If you get injured when your airbag deploys, you may wonder if you have a valid claim for compensation.

Below, our PKSD attorneys explain more about airbags, including the types of injuries that may occur. We also discuss when you may be able to seek compensation for things like medical costs, lost wages and other damages.

Did you suffer injuries when your airbag deployed? If so, we encourage you to take advantage of the free consultation we offer to get answers to your questions. Since we take car crash cases on contingency, there is nothing to pay up front or throughout the legal process. We do not receive payment for our legal services unless we win your case.

Request a FREE case review to learn more about your legal claim. 414-333-3333

What Are Airbags and How Do They Work?

Airbags are safety devices that have been around for many years. Simply stated, airbags are made from high-tech fabric bags. Each bag has an embedded impact sensor, and once that sensor gets triggered, the airbag deploys.

How Do Airbags Work?

Airbags essentially act as an instant cushion to protect you during the impact of a crash. The deployment occurs at high speed and with great force to ensure the cushion quickly inflates. This cushion creates extra protection between the vehicle and its occupants.

Today, every passenger vehicle has at least frontal airbags installed. Most vehicles, however, come with both frontal-impact and side-impact airbags.

How Can Airbags Cause Injuries During a Crash?

Airbags, like seat belts, save thousands of lives each year. However, they can also cause injuries.

When airbags deploy, injuries may result from:

Deployment Force

The high-speed deployment of airbags (approximately 100 to 220 mph) creates a tremendous force. This speed is necessary to ensure the airbags are open and protecting the driver and passengers at impact. However, if young children or small adults sit up front or too close to an airbag, this force can cause severe and sometimes even fatal injuries.

Chemical Burns

There are chemicals used in the deployment mechanism, such as sodium azide. If these chemicals come into contact with your skin or get inhaled, they can cause chemical burns or inhalation injuries.

Contact Injuries

The rapid inflation and subsequent deflation may sometimes cause severe contact injuries, such as:

  • Facial Injuries: Bruises, abrasions and fractures.
  • Eye Injuries: Corneal abrasions or retinal detachment.
  • Upper Body Injuries: Broken ribs. a fractured sternum or internal organ damage could occur in severe cases.
  • Musculoskeletal injuries: These injuries could include whiplash, soft-tissue damage or herniated discs.

Improper Deployment

Unfortunately, airbags may sometimes deploy improperly, such as because of defects in the airbag or sensor malfunctions.

Delayed airbag deployment reduces its effectiveness. Vehicle occupants could get injured because of the lack of timely protection. Unnecessary deployment could also lead to unexpected injuries. If the airbag does not deploy at all, the driver and any passengers could be injured far worse.

Position and Size of Passengers

Smaller passengers, such as children or petite adults, are more likely to suffer injuries if sitting near an airbag. This is because of their smaller size and weight.

For instance:

  • Infants and small children still riding in car seats and booster seats should never be seated up front. The force of an airbag can be extremely dangerous for children.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having all children who are under the age of 13 ride in the back seat for this reason.
  • Smaller adults who are less than five feet tall and under 150 pounds may also be safer riding in the back seat.

When Should Airbags Deploy?

Airbags are designed to deploy during moderate to severe collisions. When the impact sensors detect sudden deceleration or impact, the airbags should deploy.

These are some examples of conditions that should trigger your airbags to deploy:

  • Frontal Collisions: Airbags deploy in head-on crashes when the vehicle experiences a significant frontal impact. The sensors detect the rapid deceleration and trigger the airbags to cushion the occupants’ heads and upper bodies.
  • Side Collisions: Similarly, side airbags deploy in the event of a side impact to protect the occupants’ torsos and heads from hitting the vehicle’s interior or from intruding objects.
  • Rollover Accidents: Curtain airbags, designed to deploy during rollover accidents, help protect the occupants’ heads and prevent ejection from the vehicle.
  • Rear-End Collisions: Although less common, some vehicles also have rear airbags. If installed, these airbags are designed to deploy during rear-end collisions to help protect the occupants’ necks and heads from whiplash.

The exact timing of an airbag deployment depends on the severity and angle of the impact, as well as the vehicle’s speed. The impact sensors assess the situation within milliseconds and deploy the airbags accordingly to maximize occupant protection and minimize injury.

Are Airbags a Danger to Pregnant Women and Their Unborn Children?

Airbag deployment can potentially injure the unborn fetus of a pregnant woman. The high-speed force of a deploying airbag could cause trauma to both the mother and the fetus.

Here are some specific concerns:

  • Abdominal Trauma: The rapid inflation and force of the airbag can cause direct trauma to the abdomen, potentially injuring the fetus.
  • Placental Abruption: The force of the impact can cause the placenta to detach from the uterine wall, a condition known as placental abruption, which can be life-threatening for both the mother and the fetus.
  • Uterine Injury: The deployment of the airbag can cause injury to the uterus, leading to complications for the pregnancy.
  • Increased Pressure: The sudden increase in pressure from the airbag’s deployment can affect the amniotic fluid, potentially harming the fetus.

To mitigate these risks, pregnant women are advised to:

Wear Seatbelts Properly

Properly placed, the lap belt should go under the belly and fit snugly across the hips and pelvic bone. The shoulder belt should go between the breasts and to the side of the belly. Never place the seat belt across the belly and never place the shoulder belt behind your neck.

Maintain a Safe Distance

Keep as much distance as is safely possible between the steering wheel and the abdomen. Adjust the seat to sit back from the steering wheel or dashboard.

Use Proper Positioning

If possible, avoid driving during your pregnancy and sit in the back seat where there is no front airbag deployment.

Despite these risks, airbags generally provide more protection than harm in severe collisions. The combination of airbags and seat belts is designed to work together to provide the best possible protection for all occupants, including pregnant women.

Who May Be Liable for Injuries Caused By My Airbag?

It can be challenging to determine liability for an airbag injury as there could be many contributing factors. In general, however, liability could fall to the vehicle manufacturer or the dealership that sold or serviced the vehicle. If the airbag deployed improperly due to a defect in the design, the airbag manufacturer may be liable. Though this is more rare, if the airbag was improperly repaired or maintained, the repair shop could also be held accountable.

Injured in a Crash? Call PKSD To Discuss Your Legal Situation Today

At PKSD in Milwaukee, we are dedicated to advocating for victims injured by the negligence of others. We have a proven history of success, and we are prepared to guide you throughout the legal process.

Not sure if you have a case? Call to request a free consultation today. We can answer your questions and determine your legal options. Our experienced car crash lawyers in Milwaukee are here to help you.

PKSD. Experienced lawyers you can trust. 414-333-3333

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