If Airbags Did Not Deploy in a Car Accident, is the Car Company Liable?

Car accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and deaths. Each year, thousands of people are permanently disabled or severely injured in motor vehicle accidents. Because a car crash can be devastating to the occupants of the vehicles, car manufacturers have worked for decades to develop safety features to reduce the risk of car accident injuries.

Airbags are a safety development that helps prevent severe injuries in car accidents. According to the NHTSA, frontal airbags saved over 50,000 lives between 1987 and 2017. However, airbags can also fail and cause severe injuries either from lack of deployment or improper deployment. An experienced attorney can help you figure out who is liable for your airbag injury and demand compensation.

How do Airbags Work?

Most new vehicles have frontal airbags on the driver’s and passenger’s side. In some cases, a vehicle may have side airbags in the doors. The airbags deploy when the vehicle is involved in a collision.

Typically, a signal is sent to the airbag when the vehicle collides with another object. An inflator within the airbag begins a chemical reaction that causes the airbag to inflate. The airbag punches through the panel and inflates in less than a fraction of a second.

The airbags act as a cushion to keep your body from colliding with the dashboard, windshield, or steering wheel. However, airbags are not a substitute for seatbelts. Airbags are designed to work with your seatbelt.

The airbag is not soft. It is not a pillow. Because airbags inflate rapidly, injury can occur if the person is sitting too close to the airbag or comes into contact with the airbag as it is deploying.

What Prevents an Airbag from Deploying?

Airbags are not designed to deploy in all accidents. In some cases, the risk of injury is greater if the airbag were to deploy.

For example, if you barely tap the car in front of you, your airbag should not deploy. In that instance, the seatbelt provides sufficient protection from injury.

In some cases, airbags do not deploy because a person is not sitting in the seat or a child is in the seat. Some advanced vehicles have technology that senses a shorter person in the seat and turns off the airbag. Airbags can cause a child or smaller statured person injury.

An airbag may not deploy because it is turned off. A driver may have turned off the airbag for some reason and forgot to reengage the airbag. Another common reason that an airbag does not deploy in a used car because it was never replaced after it deployed in a crash.

Defective Airbags That Do Not Deploy

If an airbag is defective, it may not deploy or it may deploy incorrectly. Some common defects that cause an airbag not to deploy include:

  • Defects in Airbag Module — A defect in the airbag itself can cause it not to deploy. Airbags are complex devices. An error during manufacturing or in the design could cause the airbag not to function correctly.
  • Defective Sensor — The sensors in the vehicle could be defective. During an impact, if the sensor does not perform correctly, the airbag never receives the signal to inflate.
  • Improper Wiring — If the wiring from the sensor to the airbag is faulty, the airbag will not deploy. The wiring could be severed, or it could be routed in a way that damages the wiring.
  • Defective Electrical Components — Defects in any of the electrical components used to communicate impact signals during a collision can result in airbag failure.

If the reason that the airbag did not deploy is a defect, the manufacturer or other party may be responsible for damages caused by the failure to deploy. A product liability lawsuit may be filed against the designer, car manufacturer, dealer, and other parties who could be liable.

Product Liability Lawsuits for Defective Airbags

If an airbag causes injury because it fails to deploy, deploys incorrectly, or deploys at the wrong time, the car manufacturer, airbag manufacturer, and other parties may have legal liability for damages. A product liability lawyer investigates the matter to determine how the injury occurred and if the airbag was responsible. If so, the attorney may file a lawsuit claiming one or more causes of action.

Most airbag lawsuits allege that the manufacturer is strictly liable for damages because of a design defect, a manufacturing problem, or failure to warn about risks or provide adequate instructions for use. The lawsuit may also allege that the party was negligent. Negligence is usually defined in a product liability lawsuit as an injury that results because a party failed in a required duty of care owed to the victim.

In some cases, a manufacturer may be sued for a breach of warranty. The victim may claim that the manufacturer breached an implied or express warranty. Breach of warranty may be more challenging to prove, but it is a cause of action that is sometimes used in airbag injury lawsuits.

Airbag Injuries and Safety Tips

Airbags can cause serious injuries. Defective airbags have caused facial injuries, broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, and internal injuries. If an airbag fails to deploy, a person could suffer more severe injuries in the accident.

It is important to read all of the safety information and operation information about your vehicle’s airbags. The information should be in the owner’s manual. Make sure to note when an airbag should be turned off, as in the case of a passenger of shorter stature.

Never place anything in front of an airbag that could prevent deployment in an accident. If the airbag warning light activates on the dashboard, take the car to a dealer or mechanic immediately for an inspection.

If an airbag causes an injury or fails to deploy, talk to a Houston car accident attorney at Brian White & Associates. You could have a legal right to recover compensation from the car manufacturer or other party. However, your time to file a claim is limited, so act quickly.