Airbags offer vital, life-saving cushioning for passengers and drivers during a motor vehicle collision. According to the latest data from the NHTSA, front airbags saved the lives of 50,457 auto accident victims between 1987 and 2017. That’s roughly the number of people that can fit into a major league baseball park.
So while the number of motor vehicles out on the road has risen steadily over the previous decades, the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents has been significantly reduced. Experts attribute the decline to innovations in life-saving equipment and technology in cars, which include airbags. But airbags only save lives and prevent serious injuries when they are working properly. When they don’t, people could suffer severe injuries or die.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a crash where the airbags failed to deploy and sustained severe injuries, the bag manufacturer or vehicle manufacturer may owe you compensation.
How Airbags Work to Protect You
An NHTSA report indicated that frontal airbags decrease driver deaths in frontal collisions by 29 percent and front-seat passenger deaths by 32 percent. Likewise, a study found that side airbags reduce drivers’ risk of death during driver-side car collisions by 37 percent and an SUV driver’s risk of death by 52 percent.
Fundamentally, airbags are inflatable cushions that manufacturers build into the vehicle. They protect people from hitting or bumping against the vehicle’s interior and external objects, such as other cars or trees in the road, during a crash. The airbag sensors begin measuring the severity of the impact once a collision begins. If the sensors deem that the crash would be severe enough, they will signal the inflators to inflate the airbags with gas immediately.
Airbags don’t usually need maintenance unless they have deployed in a vehicle crash. In this case, owners should replace them with original equipment manufacturer replacement components to ensure that the new airbags are not counterfeit. Take note that counterfeit airbags might not deploy or withstand metal shrapnel during a crash.
Why Airbags May Fail to Deploy
For the airbags to deploy properly, a lot of things must happen in an extremely short amount of time—think milliseconds. Because of the complexity of their operation and the speed required for them to efficiently deploy, sometimes, airbags just fail to work as expected. In some cases, they don’t deploy at all or deploy too late.
Airbags may fail to work because of:
- Malfunctioning airbag modules
- Damaged electrical or wiring parts
- Defective crash sensors
- Deployed airbags that vehicle owners did not replace
Furthermore, there may be particular situations in which an airbag failed to work for reasons not linked to mechanical issues. For instance, the nature of the vehicle crash might not be enough to trigger the airbag’s deployment. A possible reason for this is when the vehicle’s onboard computer system deems the collision as a minor event and assumes that seatbelts will provide adequate protection.
Additionally, an airbag might also fail to deploy if the car senses a child or smaller-framed individual sitting in the front seat. Likewise, the vehicle’s computer might prevent the deployment of side airbags if it senses a smaller-framed individual in the backseat.
Who Is Liable When Airbags Failed to Deploy?
If a passenger or driver gets injured in a motor vehicle crash in which an airbag failed to deploy, they might be entitled to compensation via different recovery resources. The most obvious source of compensation would be another driver if that driver’s negligent acts caused the crash. But injured victims may likewise be able to recover compensation through a product liability claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer and/or the airbag’s manufacturer.
Product manufacturers, including those that manufacture motor vehicles, could be held responsible for injuries that their products cause. In many states, courts can hold a manufacturer of a defective product strictly liable. The strict liability theory places liability on liable parties without the need for injured victims to prove the defendant’s negligence.
This means you could hold a vehicle manufacturer strictly liable for the injuries that their defective vehicle or vehicle component caused, even if they were unaware that the vehicle or component was defective, and therefore, dangerous.
Product liability claims typically arise from:
- Defective product design - Design defects occur when the design of a product is unreasonably hazardous in light of its intended use.
- Manufacturing defect - Manufacturing defects occur when products are defective because of a flaw or error in the manufacturing process. Unlike in design defect claims, a plaintiff filing for a manufacturing defect isn’t claiming that all similarly manufactured products are dangerous or defective, but that the product they have is defective and caused their injury.
- Failure to warn - Failure to warn claims arise when manufacturers fail to warn consumers about inherent, non-obvious dangers associated with a product.
How to Prove Liability in Product Liability Claims
Unfortunately, providing liability in product liability claims isn’t always easy. While injured victims might not have to prove the manufacturer’s negligence, they should still meet certain elements to prove their claim.
For instance, if you suffered injuries in a car crash and the airbags didn’t deploy, you must prove that:
- The airbags should have deployed but didn’t
- The airbags failed to deploy because of a manufacturing or design defect
- You suffered injuries that were aggravated or caused by the airbags that failed to deploy
Proving that airbags should’ve deployed during the crash and why they failed to deploy usually requires expert witness testimonies to explain to the jury or judge the science behind defective airbags. In addition, you may need to consult accident reconstruction experts, engineers, and medical professionals to prove that your injuries were worsened or caused by faulty airbags.
If you believe that you or a loved one’s injuries were worsened or resulted from airbags that didn’t deploy during your car crash, discuss your case with a car crash lawyer.