If you drive a car or other passenger vehicle made in 1999 or later, it probably has airbags to protect the vehicle’s occupants in case of a collision. Accident data compiled by the federal government shows that front airbags saved the lives of at least 200 vehicle occupants in Florida in 2017. Although the devices were designed to save lives, some people have lost their lives or suffered airbag injuries when the devices deploy.

How do airbags work?

It took more than 30 years from the invention of the airbag, which was originally called an air pillow until the device became a standard safety feature on all passenger vehicles sold in the United States. The reason for the delay was concern that drivers and passengers would stop using seat belts and rely solely upon airbags to protect them in a collision. 

When a car collides with another vehicle or an object, such as a tree or signpost, it usually comes to an abrupt stop. The occupants of the vehicle continue to move and may smash into the dashboard, steering wheel or windshield. Airbags gradually slow your movement and lessen the force of the impact that may cause serious injuries.

Sensors detect when a vehicle collides with another car or with an object, such as a tree or light pole. A mechanism within an airbag ignites a chemical charge that causes a small explosion that rapidly fills the nylon airbag. The chemical reaction causes the airbag to inflate and deploy at speeds of approximately 200 mph. Deployment takes only 1/25 of a second.

Airbags quickly begin to deflate to become a soft surface that cushions the force of your body hitting it rather than causing you to rebound from it. Bouncing off a fully inflated airbag could cause you to hit a window or the frame of the car.

Do all car accidents cause airbags to deploy?

If you own an older vehicle, it may only be equipped with front airbags to protect the driver and the passenger seated in the front seats. The airbags inflate during front-end crashes at moderate speeds of 16 mph or greater. As a general rule, airbags should not inflate at speeds less than 10 mph.

Newer vehicles now come equipped with side-impact airbags and curtain airbags. Curtain airbags protect occupants from striking side windows or door frames.

Can airbag injuries occur during routine deployment?

The force generated by rapid inflation and deployment of a properly functioning device may cause injuries. Some of the injuries that may occur when a properly functioning airbag deploys include:

  • Skin abrasions and burns particularly to the face, chest and neck areas. 
  • Lung irritation caused by inhaling the chemicals and dust caused by the inflation of the airbag. 
  • Eye injuries caused by the force of the inflating airbag. 
  • Hearing loss caused by loud noise associated with the deployment of an airbag. 

A driver or front-seat passenger may increase the risk of suffering airbag injuries by sitting too close to the airbag storage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that drivers adjust their seats to be at least 10 inches back from the front airbag installed in the steering wheel.  

Brain injury caused by excessive force during airbag deployment

Excessive force generated by a rapidly deploying airbag may cause head injuries including concussions and traumatic brain injury. Malfunctioning airbags, such as those associated with government recalls, may also contribute to serious brain and other injuries.

The recall of airbags manufactured by Takata is triggered by the deaths of at least 15 drivers and passengers. Another 12.3 million may be equipped with airbags that could malfunction during a crash. Airbags that do not deploy during a collision expose drivers and passengers to serious injuries.

Officials caution Florida motorists to have defective airbags replaced. An estimated 1.4 million vehicles remain on the road in the Sunshine State with airbags supplied by Takata that could malfunction and cause serious injuries to drivers and passengers. 

Making a claim for damages for injuries

If you suffer airbag injuries, you may be entitled to sue for compensation. A challenge associated with lawsuits arising from injuries caused by a malfunctioning airbag is identifying the parties at fault. A Tampa personal injury attorney may review the facts of a particular case and determine that multiple parties may be at fault and liable for paying damages.

Potential parties that sue in an airbag injury case may include: 

  • Manufacturer of the vehicle. 
  • Supplier of the airbag. 
  • Manufacturer of the airbag. 

If you brought your vehicle to a dealer or other automotive service provider to have the airbag inspected and replaced and suffered injuries when the airbag failed to properly function, you may have a claim against that party.

Do not delay contacting a personal injury lawyer after an accident that may involve airbag injuries. Florida law limits the time you have to file a lawsuit for personal injuries caused by the fault of another party, so please contact a Tampa personal injury lawyer or contact us for a complimentary consultation with us today.