When our car is involved in an accident, we expect our airbags to deploy to help minimize the harm the accident causes. Unfortunately, due to a number of potential circumstances, airbags can fail to deploy, which could cause serious injury. Airbags, or cushions built into a vehicle to protect the driver and passengers from hitting the vehicle interior or even in extreme circumstances objects outside the vehicle. In order to properly deploy, airbags rely on sensors that measure impact and the severity of the impact. If the impact measured is severe enough, the sensors cause the airbag to fill within a fraction of a second. Once a crash occurs, while the car often comes to a stop the occupants of the vehicle continue to move forward. In these cases, frontal airbags are meant to work in conjunction with seatbelts in order to keep the occupant from being seriously injured. Since 1999, frontal airbags have been required in all new vehicles made.
An airbag can fail to deploy for a number of reasons. The most common reason is that the crash simply wasn’t severe enough. If the impact is mild, a seatbelt alone should provide sufficient protection, meaning the airbags don’t need to deploy. Second, newer cars can detect when there is not a passenger in the car, causing the passenger side airbag not to deploy even in a severe accident. Third, some vehicles come with a manual on/off switch for passenger air bags. If the switch is off, the airbag will not deploy. Finally, an airbag can fail to deploy because of some kind of defect in the airbag.
One of the most common defects happens when an airbag is replaced. After a car accident occurs that causes airbag deployment, it is necessary to replace the deployed airbag with a new one. A few years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned that counterfeit airbags were being imported from foreign countries. These airbags look authentic, but are potentially very dangerous, as they likely won’t deploy in a subsequent accident. A repair shop should be able to properly identify a counterfeit air bag and keep it from being installed in a car.
In some cases, the original airbag has a defect, either in its design or a defect gained through the manufacturing process. In cases of a design defect, consumers will often be warned through product recalls. If an airbag causes injuries before the company catches the defect, a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit. In order to be successful, the plaintiff must show two elements. First, the plaintiff must show that the product is more dangerous than an ordinary consumer would expect. A consumer expects an airbag to deploy in emergency situations, and in almost any circumstance that the airbag does not deploy this element can be met. Second, the plaintiff must show that the benefits of the challenged design do not outweigh the risk. This element, like the first, is easily met in that airbags are supposed to be a safety feature. In addition to design defects which affect every product in a group, a plaintiff can bring a manufacturing defect when just one or a small group of products are defective. In order to show a manufacturing defect, the plaintiff must prove four elements. First, the plaintiff must show that the product was in a defective condition that made it unreasonably dangerous. Second, the plaintiff must show the defect existed when the product left the company’s control. This means that the defect can’t be a result of the plaintiff tampering with the airbag. Third, the plaintiff must show the defect caused the plaintiff’s injury. Fourth, the plaintiff must show that he was actually injured. If these elements are met, a plaintiff can recover for any injuries sustained by a faulty airbag.
At the MA Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, we understand that dealing with the aftermath of a serious accident can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. Our MA products liability and personal injury lawyers are prepared to represent you every step of the way. If you or a loved one has been injured due to Airbag Failure, please Contact Us to schedule a free of charge initial consultation with a member of our Personal Injury Team. We are available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.