Airbag Injury + Common Airbag Deployment Injuries

Michael Bennett
August 31, 2016 - 711 Views

Have You Been Hurt by a Defective Auto Airbag? Did it fail to deploy or explode? We can help. Complete the form to your left or call us today. ALERT: Auto Airbag maker Takata to pay $1 billion to settle US air bag probe. Source: Wall Street Journal

A major news event in recent time is the recall of vehicle airbags that are defective. There have been serious problems when an airbag is faulty and activates unexpectedly, when there has been no collision, or when it inflates improperly. This sudden and unnecessary deployment can cause serious injury or death to vehicle occupants.

Airbags & Personal Safety

Airbags are a mandatory safety feature installed during vehicle manufacture. They are proven to reduce injuries and save lives when there is an impact accident. The primary purpose of this feature is to provide an almost instant cushion of air, preventing vehicle occupants from colliding with the interior hard parts of the vehicle.

The system of airbag protection was considered to be needed on all U.S. vehicles. Airbags are designed to be used along with seatbelts. The use of seatbelts definitely saves lives in a collision; airbags provide additional protection, especially in head-on collisions.

The first airbag systems were installed by Oldsmobile on the 1973 Toronado models. In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act passed, but it did not go into effect until September 1, 1998. By 1997, front seat airbags were required on all passenger cars. Trucks did not need to comply with this law until it was in full effect, in 1998.

Airbag Development

The first use of airbags dates back to World War II, when a device was invented to help protect pilots during crash landings. By 1953, two inventors patented devices designed to be safety cushions for use in automobiles. A retired industrial engineering technician, John W. Hetrick, developed the first prototype for the airbags used today under his U.S. Patent 2,649,311. In Germany, another inventor, Walter Linderer, received a patent for his inflatable cushion, also created to protect drivers.

An integral part of modern airbag systems is the sensor device, first developed in the late 1960’s, by Allen K. Breed. Mr. Breed was a mechanical engineer in New Jersey. His sensor was the first of dozens of other car safety inventions he designed. One of his later designs, patented in 1991 (No. 5,071,161) featured an airbag that would vent air during inflation. This helped make the air cushion a bit softer, thus reducing potential injuries to humans during airbag inflation.

Airbag Performance

Airbags are made from a flexible nylon material that is folded and concealed behind a cover on the steering wheel, the dash or a side door panel. When there is any impact, a sensor sends an activation signal to the airbag, causing it to inflate at remarkable speeds, up to 100mph or higher. The bag fills with sodium azide and potassium nitrate, which combine to create hot hydrogen gas for inflation.

Many airbags also feature air vents, which allow the bag to be slightly less hard during the cushioning experience. If the bag is too hard, the vehicle occupant could be injured from colliding with the airbag. Ultimately, the airbag is supposed to prevent the human occupant from being injured by collisions with the steering wheel, dash, door, windshield or other hard parts.

History of Airbag Failures

While the development of airbags and the crash-sensor devices did improve safety and reduce severity of injuries, the malfunction of these systems is a key part in the problem of airbag failures. A variety of conditions can set off the sensor, activating the airbags. When the sensor is activated, it sends an electronic signal to the airbag control, which releases the airbag and initiates inflation.

Airbag failures occur when this system is activated unnecessarily or when it fails to function at all. This can occur from a problem in the sensor or wiring within the system. Some injuries due to failures of side airbag deployment have occurred when a vehicle was sideswiped or brushed up against some object on the side of the vehicle. In other cases, airbags malfunctioned even when the ignition was turned off. GM also has experienced faulty ignition switches and may still today.

The intensity of the airbag inflation process has caused additional instances of failure causing personal injury. Some airbags explode with such force that the metal casing around it becomes shrapnel, moving outwards towards occupants at high speeds like a bullet. People have died from being impaled by sharp pieces of broken metal hurling through the air.

Airbag Deployment Injuries

There is a long list of injuries that have occurred due to faulty airbag deployment. Some injuries occurred during normal operations, as the airbag is activated due to a real collision. Other injuries have happened at times when the vehicle was not even turned on, or when there was no collision. The sensor devices are extremely sensitive to changes in speed and deceleration. This is a necessary component for proper operation. Unfortunately, injuries do occur and these problems are in part due to the very operation of the airbag.

Here are some of the most common airbag deployment injuries that have been reported:

  • Head & Facial Injuries – People should be at least 10 inches away from the airbag for best results and protection. Injuries from the exploding bag or metal parts can cause head and facial area injuries. Problems can be worse for infants, children or shorter people.
  • Chest & Cardiac Injuries – These can appear even if there is a slow impact collision; many cardiac injuries are not visible at the hospital. Airbag inflation can cause fractures of the ribs and sternum, especially if the person is too close to the airbag when it inflates, or if the airbag air vent system does not work to reduce the density of the bag.
  • Ear & Hearing Injuries – Airbag explosions are very loud, especially in a confined area. This may result in damage to ears and eyes. Damage includes temporary or permanent hearing loss, tinnitus and perforation of the eardrum. Dizziness or loss of equilibrium also was reported.
  • Eye Injuries – Caused by exposure to chemicals, burns or lacerations from shrapnel release.
  • Lung Injuries – Asthma or inhalational chemical pneumonitis can develop if byproducts of the chemical reaction elements that cause airbag expansion to occur are inhaled.
  • Burns from Chemicals – When an airbag ruptures, alkaline chemicals inside may cause burns.
  • Lacerations, Punctures & Wounds – When deployed, if the explosion also causes the metal frame that holds the airbag to fracture, pieces of metal can be released, causing bodily injury.
  • Death – In some cases where an airbag inflator ruptured, persons injured from that shrapnel died because the metal pieces cut their neck and carotid arteries.

Get Legal Help Right Now

There are class action lawsuits about airbag deployment in progress against Takata and other companies. If you or a loved one has been injured or died due to airbag defects or failure, you may be eligible to join one of these actions, or you can file independently. It is important that you try to obtain all possible evidence from the accident scene, including airbag parts, photos and witness information.

Work with an experienced Attorney who has handled this type of legal action for best results.

Get legal help now by registering your claim with us.

Michael Bennett

About Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett is Editor-in-Chief of Consumer Protect.com. Since 1999, he's worked across a multitude of areas of consumer protection including defective products, environmental issues, identity theft, predatory lending and more. If you find his articles helpful please share them with your readers.