In the past several years, there have been a large number of airbag malfunctions and recalls. Airbag malfunctions can be extremely dangerous to drivers and passengers of cars. If drivers or passengers are injured or killed by a defective airbag, there may be legal options for victims or the families of victims.
Types of Airbag Malfunctions
There are many types of airbag malfunctions, all of which may be very harmful to vehicle occupants. Vehicle occupants may be injured when airbags fail to deploy or deploy at inappropriate times. Vehicle occupants may also become injured when airbags fail to operate correctly.
Unnecessary Airbag Deployment
One of the most common and dangerous types of airbag malfunction is the unnecessary deployment of airbags. This may occur when the driver starts the car or is driving. When an airbag deploys as a driver is driving, it may cause the driver to crash. Airbags that deploy in this way also commonly continue to inflate or begin to deflate after deployment. This can be extremely dangerous for vehicle occupants, as the airbag inflates at high speeds which may cause serious injuries or even decapitation, in some cases.
Overly Aggressive Airbags
Another defect that has been common in recalls is the propensity of the airbag to deploy aggressively in an accident. Airbags may deploy at up to 200 miles per hour. If the airbag deploys aggressively, it may cause injuries such as head trauma, brain damage, and even decapitation in extreme cases. Metal from the vehicle may also become displaced when an airbag deploys aggressively, causing additional injury.
Delayed or Failed Deployment
When an airbag fails to deploy or deploys late after a car accident, drivers or passengers may become injured on the steering wheel or dashboard. Vehicle occupants may also be thrown from the vehicle, depending on the speed of the crash. In the case of a delayed deployment, vehicle occupants may be injured or killed by the airbag when it does deploy, depending on the positioning at the time of deployment.
Oversized or Untethered Airbags
Oversized airbags may deploy and take up much more space than is expected or safe. Untethered airbags come unattached from the vehicle and may cause decapitation. Both of these defects are more easily proven than many other types of airbag malfunctions.
In 2013, there were a record number of recalls due to airbag malfunctions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were over 6 million airbag recalls during the first 9 months of 2013. While airbag recalls may prevent some injuries, many recalls are not initiated until someone is injured or killed. If it is found that a company knew about or suspected defects prior to the release of the vehicle, the company may face legal and criminal repercussions.
Reasons for Increase in Airbag Malfunctions
Airbags and airbag systems are becoming more complex. Many airbags systems contain sensors to monitor the severity of car accidents, vehicle occupant weight, and positioning of vehicle occupants. Due to the increased complexity of the systems, there are more features which have the potential to malfunction. Vehicle owners are also keeping vehicles for longer spans of time, which allows the airbag to sit dormant for a longer span of time.
Effects of Airbag Malfunctions
Airbag malfunctions may cause many types of injuries to drivers and passengers, including:
- Brain damage
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Facial disfigurement
- Broken bones
- Blindness or eye injuries
- Hearing loss
- Heart injuries and complications
Airbag Malfunction Lawsuits
If airbag malfunctions cause injury to a driver or passenger, the victim can typically recover compensation through a product liability lawsuit. The vehicle manufacturer, the product manufacturer, or both will usually be held liable for reimbursing medical costs, lost wages, and other associated costs. Victims may need to prove that there were defects present in the airbag design or manufacture that were unrelated to misuse or maintenance issues in order to recover compensation. The vehicle or product manufacturer may face additional penalties if it is discovered that the company knew about defects and failed to warn consumers or correct the problem.
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