Common Airbag Injuries Following a Car Accident
Airbags are intended as a safety device; during a collision, they rapidly inflate to soften the blow between the occupant’s body and the vehicle. While airbags are used to prevent serious harm, there are also cases where airbag deployment can cause injuries, such as bruises and fractures to the upper body.
Parker Waichman LLP has decades of experience successfully representing clients in product liability lawsuits over allegedly defective or dangerous products. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing an airbag injury lawsuit.
In 2003, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study titled, “The effects of airbag deployment on severe upper extremity injuries in frontal automobile crashes.” Researchers looked at severe upper extremities from frontal motor vehicle crashes and analyzed the role of frontal airbags. Authors identified 25,464 cases of severe upper extremities using the National Automotive Sampling System database files from 1993 to 2000. The study found that occupants were statistically more likely to suffer a severe upper extremity injury if an airbag deployed (2.7 percent versus 1.6 percent). Among crashes where an airbag deployed, the risk of severe upper extremity injuries was higher among older occupants and in crashes with higher changes in velocity.
Of course, no one is suggesting that airbags be removed from vehicles. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that frontal airbags have saved 39,886 as of 2013. In a frontal collision, frontal airbags reduce the risk of death by 29 percent. Airbags are even more likely to prevent traffic fatalities when passengers wear a seat belt. Airbags undoubtedly prevent serious injuries and save lives. However, it is still helpful to be aware of the occasional injuries that they can cause. Personal injury attorneys also note that airbags must be designed and manufactured safely for their intended use.
If an airbag deploys incorrectly, it can cause injuries. Examples include: deployment at the wrong time, during a low-impact crash, failure to deploy when necessary, failure of all airbags to deploy, and late deployment.
Airbags can cause injuries because they deflate quickly in a collision. Sometimes, the energy needed for this rapid deployment can cause trauma to the face, chest and upper body extremities.
In 2014, researchers found that airbags can also cause “hidden injuries”, including cardiac and pulmonary injuries and death. Drivers are more likely to experience these injuries if they are not wearing a seatbelt. “Cardiac injuries can happen due to airbag deployment even with no visible injury at the time of presentation to the hospital, and this may include serious cardiac injuries,” said lead author Dr. Rami Khouzam (University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis) to heartwire. He said the most common cardiovascular injuries after an airbag deployment include aortic transection, tricuspid-valve injury, right atrial rupture, cardiac contusion, MI, aortic-valve avulsion, cardiac tamponade, and hemopericardium.
Airbag Defects and Recalls Lead to Lawsuits
Some product liability lawsuits are filed over injuries caused by a defective airbag. The Takata exploding airbag recall is a prime example. The faulty airbags contain a defective inflator, which can explode under pressure. This can cause serious and life-threatening injuries, as metal shards are sent flying towards the occupants in the vehicle.
A total of 19 automakers recalled 42 million vehicles due to the Takata airbags. The airbag explosions have been linked to at least 11 deaths and 180 injuries. Furthermore, government agencies investigated Takata following reports that the company manipulated test data, among other things. Takata recently pleaded guilty to felony charges of wire fraud and agreed to pay $1 billion in relation to the recall.
Car experts also warn consumers to beware of recycled airbags following a car accident. According to Carfax, roughly 750,000 airbags are replaced each year after a collision. Some replacement bags are recycled, and have a higher risk of being on the recall list. This can pose a risk of injuries to the consumer later on.
Christopher Basso, who works for Carfax, told Kansas City’s KSHB News, “It really underscores the importance of finding out if original manufacture equipment airbags were used or if they took a recycled airbag that may be on the recall list and could put your life in danger,”
“Recycled airbags being used on the recall list could affect anybody anywhere and really underscores the importance of knowing if your car was in a crash when the airbag was deployed and needed to be replaced and what was needed to replace it,”
Filing an Airbag Defect Lawsuit
If you or someone you know is interested in filing a recalled airbag lawsuit or airbag defect lawsuit, contact one of our product liability lawyers today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).