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Airbag Safety Recalls and History

Common Airbag Injuries

There are cases where airbags cause injuries and can range from mild to severe. These injuries are caused when the airbags deflate, but there are many safety tips worth knowing to protect you and your family in case of a car accident.

The main cause of these injuries is the sudden deflation of the airbag. Avrek Law is very experienced with Airbag lawsuits and injuries.

For legal questions see our airbag page.

The common airbag injuries include:

  • Concussions
  • Rashes
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Facial injuries
  • Bruising
  • Skin abrasions
  • Burns
  • Ear damage or hearing loss
  • Skin irritation
  • Damage to the eyes
  • Whiplash
  • Fracture or break in face
  • Bruising or swelling of brain
  • Internal bleeding
  • Hearing loss or ear trauma

Injuries caused by airbags can be reduced by providing adequate room between the car occupant and the area of deployment.

Can I file a Lawsuit Due To Airbag Injury and Get Compensation?

There have been cases where it was reported that an airbag deployed in the absence of an accident or a crash and it injured the car occupant.

During a car accident, the airbags can deploy also and this can cause injuries to the car occupant.

It is possible to pursue claims against an airbag manufacturer but you will first have to prove that the airbag was designed in a way that was unreasonably dangerous. Under defect cases, this case will fall under the category of whether the car was crashworthy or not.

In the event you are involved in a car accident and you are injured ensure that you contact an attorney and they can offer you more advise on the steps you should take.

Preventing Airbag Injuries

Driving an automobile is dangerous enough, but when you include the potential for harm from airbags, it becomes frightening to even drive at all anymore.

Even though frontal airbags are about 15% effective at saving lives in the event of an accident, there is still a serious risk of injury from airbags in general.

Since 1990, roughly 80% of those people killed by an airbag weren’t wearing a seatbelt, so buckle up.

Below is a safety list to help prevent airbag accident injuries.

  1. Be sure your seatbelt is at least 10 inches from where the airbag would deploy
  2. Ensure everybody in the vehicle wears their seatbelts
  3. Use only the proper safety seats for kids
  4. Don’t allow children under 12 to ride in front seat
  5. Follow all speed limits and traffic laws
  6. Don’t allow children to lean on doors and accidentally deploy the airbags
  7. Pregnant women past 7 months should avoid driving because the steering column and airbags pose serious danger

airbag injuries

Airbag History

An airbag is a cushion designed safety device that is fitted inside a vehicle and is made in such a way that it inflates quickly in case there is a collision.

The airbag protects passengers from being thrown against the vehicle’s structure.

Airbags are considered to be one of the most important innovations in the recent years.

Airbags are normally hidden from plain view but are considered to be one of the most important safety device that has ever been invented.

Since 1999, thanks to advocacy from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it was made a requirement that all car manufacturers fit their vehicle models with frontal airbags.

It is not a requirement for one to fit side airbags but almost all car manufacturers fit their car models with them to meet the federal side protection requirements.

Airbag technology has improved over the years and today, there are vehicles that have rear-window curtain bags that protect people in the back seat and front-center airbags that prevent the driver and front-seat passengers from hitting each other in the event of a crash.

John W. Hetrick was the one who conceived the idea of an airbag in 1952 after he was involved in a car accident with his wife and daughter. He came up with the idea of an airbag after they tried to use their hands both him and his wife to prevent their daughter from hitting the dashboard.

How Airbags Work

Once there is a crash, the sensors work immediately and trigger the airbag. If the crash is severe, the sensors signal inflators will fill the bags within a fraction of a second. Speeds of deploying an airbag can reach 200 mph.

Airbags offer maximum protection when one is wearing a seat belt and they are sitting properly on their seat. If you want to locate the location of an airbag, you should look for the words “airbag” or “SRS” (supplemental restraint system) stitched into the fabric of the car interior or stamped into plastic in the interior of the car.

car accident

In normal cases, airbag systems don’t require regular maintenance. An airbag that is properly functioning can last an entire life time. However, once it is deployed in a crash, it needs to be changed.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety(IIHS) did a demonstration test on frontal airbags on a 1973 Chevrolet Impala and it was shown that they worked properly even after 20 years.
There is an airbag light that is located on the dashboard which shows whether the instrument panel is working properly.

Once you switch on the ignition, the warning light illuminates for a few seconds. In case the airbag warning light is flashing or it remains illuminated with or without a warning beep or it doesn’t illuminate during the ignition, then you need to take your car for maintenance and get your airbags to be checked.

Once you have been involved in a crash, you should ensure that your airbags are replaced. The airbags should be replaced in a car repair shop that uses original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts. This way, you will ensure that you get an original airbag and not one that is counterfeited.

Airbag Accident Statistics

Statistics show that frontal airbags can reduce driver fatalities by 29 percent in case of frontal crashes and when the front-seat passengers are aged 13 years or older, fatalities reduce by 32 percent. In driver-side crashes, side airbags that are meant to protect the head reduce the risk of the car driver’s death by 37 percent and an SUV’s driver’s risk by 52 percent.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), since 1990, there have been more than 170 fatalities in the United States that were caused by airbags.

Types Of Airbags

Frontal Airbags
These are airbags that are designed to inflate in case of a frontal crash. The airbag is designed in such a way that it inflates from moderate to severe depending on the crash. A typical airbag deploys within 50 milliseconds of impact (0.05 seconds). Airbags prevent a person’s chest and head from contacting hard structures in the vehicle and therefore avoiding extreme injuries. This airbag offers maximum protection when the passenger or driver is sitting properly and is wearing a seat belt.

airbag safety

Recent frontal airbags are fitted with a safety belt sensor and an algorithm that is designed to decide whether the airbag should be deployed in a given crash. If the car occupant hasn’t put on a seat belt, the frontal airbag will deploy when the crash is equal to an impact on a rigid wall when the car is moving at a speed of 10 – 12 mph. If the occupant is wearing a seat belt, the air bag will deploy when it’s going at a speed of about 16 mph.

The driver’s airbag is located in the steering wheel while the passenger airbag is located on the dash board. There are car manufacturers who also provide additional knee airbags that are located on the dashboard and their aim is to reduce leg injuries. The knee airbags also control the movement of the occupant’s lower body and they reduce injuries to the occupant’s abdomen and chest.

Side Airbags
Side airbags deflate after a side crash and they are meant to protect the head and chest of the car occupants. The side airbag prevents the occupant from striking another partner, striking the side of the vehicle or striking objects such as a tree or a pole. A side airbag is very important since in some cases, the windows shatters and it is the airbag that protects you from striking objects.

There is minimal space between the side of the vehicle and the occupant and it is for this reason that side airbags deploy very quickly in case of a crash. The side airbags deploy within 10-20 milliseconds. When there are narrow objects such as a tree or a pole, the airbags deploy at a speed of 8 mph. If the car has crashed into a wider object, the airbags deploy at a speed of 18 mph.

Torso side airbags are meant to protect the torso and they deploy from behind the seat. These airbags provide a cushion between the occupant’s chest and the door structure. They also extend to the bag therefore protecting the pelvis area. Torso airbags are located in the rear outboard seating position while head protecting curtain side bags are located in the roof rail.
A combination bag is another type of airbag that offers protection from the seatback and it normally extends upwards to cover both the head and the torso.

Rollover deployment side airbags
These are airbags that deploy in the event of a rollover crash. These airbags have sensors that measure a vehicle’s movement sideways and in the event they tilt, the can detect a rollover. These airbags deflate within 10-20 milliseconds after detection.

Once they have deflated, they can remain inflated longer as compared to other airbags to protect the occupant in case of multiple roll crashes. There is a new federal safety standard and all automakers are required to fit their cars with this type of airbag by 2018.

Famous Airbag Recalls

The Takata airbag recall is the biggest that there has ever been. In April 2013, it was found that these airbags may not deploy properly and in the event of a crash, it may shoot metal fragments into the vehicle. In United States, almost 34 million vehicles were affected while 7 million others were to be recalled.

Reasons Why an Airbag May Not Deploy

  • The airbag could have a defect that prevented it from deploying
  • The deployment signal may have not reached the airbag modules causing the airbag not to deploy.
  • The crash sensors did not detect the crash due to a defect
  • The crash may not be the type of accident that is covered by air bag deployment.

The Future of The Automobile Airbag

Many car manufacturers are looking at improving side airbags by beefing up door frames, doors, roof and floor sections.

Inflatable seatbelts have also been introduced and Ford fitted them in one of their car models in 2011. More cars are predicted to embrace this technology in future.

Currently there is research that is undergoing on external airbags which will deploy within 20 – 30 milliseconds and would save lives of both pedestrians and passengers.

Pedestrian airbags were introduced by Volvo in 2012 and in the instance of a car collision, it deploys a U-shaped airbag from beneath the car. Currently it is optional in Europe but more car manufacturers are likely to embrace it in the U.S.

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