Defective Airbags and Resulting Product Liability Claims
The airbag is a passive safety device in cars engineered to rapidly inflate (at a rate of 200 mph) when its sensors first signal impact of a collision is occurring. The device was designed to work in conjunction with seatbelts and not as a substitute to them. The purpose of an airbag is to prevent passengers riding in the front seat from hitting the dashboard, steering column, or windshield in a collision. Yet airbags are not limited to protecting passengers in the front seat from a collision with the dashboard.
Side airbags are now popular
Many late-model vehicles now also include side curtain airbags. These more recently added airbag products were designed to protect passengers from hitting side pillars or the car’s frame. Side airbags are engineered to cushion the blow of passenger impacts with side pillars of the vehicle’s frame.
Limitations, shortcomings of airbags
After an airbag first inflates, it has no further utility for car passengers in protection value, should a vehicle rollover occur. Airbags located in the front of the vehicle in dashboards or steering mechanisms hold no protective value for passengers in side and/or rear collisions. One of the more publicized shortcomings of the airbag concerns inadvertent deployment. Accidental triggering of the airbag’s inflation mechanism can cause serious, if not fatal, injury in children and adults.
Tragically, since 1990, there have been 175 deaths caused by airbag deployment, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The lion's share of those deaths, 104, were of children. Most children who died were improper passengers in the front of vehicles, lacking restraints, having improper restraints, or only wearing lap seatbelts. At the same time, it is important to realize that thousands of lives (more than 6,300) are saved and spared through effective use of airbag safety protection.
Injuries resulting from defective airbags or improper safety restraint usage
Because airbags deploy so fast, abrasion injuries often occur on the skin, nose, face, skull, and hands of passengers. There is also an explosion that occurs when the airbag deploys at collision impact. That explosion can cause eye and nose injury, head injury, and harm to hands and arms. The gas used for airbag inflation is hot and may cause thermal burns to the head and chest if the gas makes contact with bare skin when the airbag deploys. For petite females who tend to sit too close to the steering wheel, they may be seriously injured or even killed when the airbag deploys. To date, 64 smaller adult passengers have died because they were improperly positioned too close to the steering mechanism when their airbags detonated. Other causes of injuries and deaths relating to airbag deployment happen when passengers fail to use any safety restraints or use their existing safety restraints incorrectly.
Car owners who buy new or even used vehicles deserve to receive all they purchase in terms of the vehicle and its safety equipment. That includes receiving a vehicle without product defects in the airbag safety system. If you have been harmed from the use of an airbag, it may be prudent to consult with a product liability or personal injury attorney to further discuss your rights, remedies, and available recoveries. The role the airbag played in causing any injuries and product recalls to the vehicle in question are issues likely to be discussed. Time may be of the essence.
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