The world of the automobile changed with the invention of the airbag. Invented in the 1950s, then federally mandated in the late 1990s, airbags have significantly protected passengers while saving tens of thousands of lives. In fact, the chance of dying in a car accident is reduced by almost 35 percent when the airbag deploys. Those chances are almost doubled when combined with a seat belt at over 60 percent. But even with all the positives airbags have brought to travelers around the world, there is a possibility they can cause serious personal injury as well.
How can an Airbag Cause an Injury?
Airbags are designed primarily to work with seat belts and other safety components in the vehicle. Made with a nylon fabric, airbags fill with gas in an instant when triggered, providing a much softer impact for the passenger. Vehicles as modern as 1998 are legally required to have front airbags installed for both driver and passenger behind the steering wheel and passenger-side dashboard, respectively. More car manufacturers recently are installing rear passenger airbags for the back and curtain airbags in case of side impact.
When an accident occurs, sensors in the vehicle alert igniters in the airbag to explode and deploy with speeds of 100 to 200 miles per hour. This speed is blindingly quick and still creates an impact so forceful it causes minor injuries. Although sensors will ignite in the seat belt to restrain the body, allowing a safe distance between passenger and airbag, injuries will likely occur even when the airbag operates properly.
Some other common injuries that an airbag can cause include the following:
- Concussions or other brain injuries
- Abrasions or lacerations
- Sensory loss
- Internal injuries
- Back or spinal injuries
- Bruises or bodily contusions
- Facial injuries
- Neck injuries or whiplash
- Asthma or respiratory issues from internal chemicals of airbag
- Muscle or joint injuries
- Bone fractures
What Causes an Airbag Malfunction?
Airbags can cause serious harm, particularly if the passenger was not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact. But there are other times when an airbag itself malfunctions and does not work properly. This is mostly caused by a faulty airbag sensor. Airbag sensors need to operate at full capacity for the whole system to work properly. Should an airbag sensor malfunction, causing the airbag to deploy too late or not at all, the passenger may be too close to impact. A faulty sensor can also cause an airbag to deploy with no crash detected. An airbag deploys almost 2,000 pounds of force. If the passenger is not restrained properly or is too close, it will likely lead to serious injury or death.
There have been several safety recalls involving airbags over the years, most notably the recent Takata airbag recall, which was the largest automobile recall in history. Here, a malfunctioning airbag would explode and send lethal shrapnel toward the passenger. Ultimately, the faulty airbag was caused by other malfunctioning parts of the car.
How to Reduce Airbag Injuries
Airbags must operate in coordination with other parts of the vehicle to ensure the safest use, but passengers can also take several basic steps to reduce the seriousness of an injury:
- Always wear a seat belt and check if it is secure before traveling.
- Find the locations of all airbags in the vehicle and make sure each passenger is at least 10 inches away.
- Pregnant women and elderly people should travel in the back seat.
- All children under the age of 12 should be in the back seat.
- A rear-facing child seat should only be in the back seat, never on the front seat.
- Drivers should use the correct car seat for a child’s weight and age and check that it is secured properly.
Brooklyn Car Accident Lawyers at Eaton & Torrenzano Help Those Injured by Malfunctioning Airbags
Although airbags are designed to keep passengers safe during a car accident, they could still cause minor injuries even when they operate properly. Airbags also have a long history of causing serious or fatal injuries, particularly when they malfunction. If you or a loved one had been injured in a car accident or by a malfunctioning airbag, contact the Brooklyn car accident lawyers at Eaton & Torrenzano immediately. Our experienced and knowledgeable team is here to help protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 718-332-7766 or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York, and Hillsborough, New Jersey, we serve clients in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan, Kings County, and Richmond County.