When combined with proper seat belt use, airbags offer passenger vehicle drivers and passengers the most effective protection against accident-related injuries and fatalities. From 1987 to 2015, airbags saved the lives of more than 44,800 drivers and passengers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Additionally, the NHTSA credits airbags with saving nearly 3,000 lives in 2016 alone.
However, though airbags are undeniably a life-saving technology, they're not without risks. Between 1990 and 2008, the NHTSA recorded nearly 300 airbag-related deaths. If you were seriously injured by an airbag in an accident caused by another person or entity's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for the additional injuries suffered from an airbag. Here's what you need to know before taking legal action.
Types of Airbags
Frontal airbags are the most common airbags found in vehicles and the ones most commonly engaged. The government has required frontal airbags in all new cars, vans, light trucks and other passenger vehicles since the 1999 model year. The airbags that make up the frontal airbag system are located inside the steering wheel and behind a panel on the passenger-side dashboard, and deploy to protect occupants in the event of a head-on collision or a side-impact collision with sufficient forward movement. Other common types of airbags include:
- Side airbags. Mounted to the door, seat, or frame in the vehicle's front section, side airbags deploy to provide protection in side-impact and rollover crashes.
- Rear airbags. Specifically designed to protect passengers in the back of the vehicle during side-impact or rollover accident, rear airbag design and placement isn't regulated by the NHTSA. Instead, automakers used voluntary testing standard to ensure safety.
- Curtain airbags. These airbags can be mounted to the ceiling in the front and rear of the vehicle—as well as the middle in vehicles with three rows of seating—and expand downward, providing a “curtain” of protection in the event of an accident.
- Knee airbags. These supplemental airbags help protect drivers and front passengers from leg, chest, and abdomen injuries two ways: by distributing the force of impact and controlling the movement of the lower body.
How Airbags Work
Constructed of lightweight fabric, airbags are connected to sensors that trigger nitrogen or argon igniters that cause the bags to rapidly inflate, deploy, and deflate in the event of an accident. Airbags are designed to deploy during head-on, side-impact, rear-end, and rollover crashes that occur at speeds higher than 8 to 10 MPH.
Unfortunately, airbags don't always work as intended and, when they don't, they can cause serious injury or even death. Common airbag issues that can lead to injury include:
- Faulty crash sensors. The timing of an airbag's deployment is crucial to avoiding severe injuries. When an airbag's crash sensor malfunctions, the airbag may fail to deploy, may deploy a microsecond too late, or may deploy in appropriate situations, such as in a minor, slow-speed accident or when the motorist is simply driving down the road.
- Counterfeit airbags. These replacement airbags aren't certified by the vehicle's manufacturer and, as a result, may not perform as well or provide the same protection as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) airbags.
Takata Airbag Recall
The Takata Corporation, a leading Japanese airbag manufacturer, has been plagued by recall woes since 2015, due to faulty igniters that caused airbags to explode and release deadly metal shrapnel. Takata's defective airbags have been linked to nearly 200 injuries and more than a dozen deaths, leading to the largest automotive recall in U.S. history. By 2019, more than 70 million vehicles will have been affected by the recall.
Were You Injured in a California Car Accident?
If you were seriously injured by an airbag in an accident caused by another party's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and other damages. Our Rancho Cucamonga car accident lawyers can help you understand your legal right and options after a traumatic accident. Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today at (888) 694-3529 or (909) 481-0100 to schedule an appointment for a free initial case review at either our main office in Rancho Cucamonga or our satellite office in Victorville.