Car Accidents and Airbag Safety

How Safe are Airbags?

Have you ever been involved in a car accident where the airbag deployed and your life was saved but you suffered severe injuries? There’s no question that airbags save lives, but at what cost? Are the injuries that victims suffer worth it?

Airbag safety and reliability have come under scrutiny in recent years because of the many recalls and issues related to their reliability and failure. Takata has issued nearly 67 million recalls on vehicles due to the possibility that these airbags can explode or under-inflate, resulting in death or serious injury. However, assuming the likelihood of a defective product is low, the bigger concern with airbags revolves around their effectiveness – not at saving lives, but at causing serious injury or death when they perform as expected.

How Airbags Work

Airbags are designed to rapidly inflate when one vehicle collides with another, or a stationary object. Their purpose is to prevent the driver and passengers in the vehicle from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, doors, and windows.
Upon impact, sensors located at prime points on your vehicle will send a signal to a canister containing a chemical known as Sodium Azide. In less than one second after impact, the signal is sent and a chemical reaction occurs that results in the bag being filled long enough to prevent the occupants from hitting parts of the car and sustaining severe injuries. Within seconds, the gasses that inflated the airbag break up, and the bag recedes. It releases nauseous chemicals and gasses making it difficult to see or breathe which can cause problems for some.

The Benefits of Airbags

How Did We Get Airbags on All Vehicles?

The history of airbags goes back to 1953 when engineer John Heckman received a patent for a cushioning device following an accident where he and his wife tried to shield their daughter from injury via the dash. Soon, more and more patents followed, with automobile manufacturers adding them to certain vehicles.

While manufacturers began installing airbags in some automobiles in the early 1970s, it wasn’t until 1998 that the Federal government enacted the law that required automobile manufacturers to install airbags in all new cars and light trucks.

Airbags Save Lives

According to the NHTSA, over 50,000 lives were saved as a result of airbags deploying from 1987 to 2017. But, airbags were never meant to work alone. For a person to prevent serious injuries, they also need to wear their seatbelt. Seatbelts, in conjunction with airbags, help to keep you safe and avoid serious life-threatening injuries.

Crash data, both real and test, prove that seatbelts work. Besides wearing a seatbelt however, children in car seats should not sit in the front near airbags. Likewise, drivers should be at least ten inches away.

The passenger-side airbag is further from the seat, so it is larger than the driver’s side. Since it has farther to travel, it is more often associated with injuries. There are many controversies surrounding airbags, including cost. The most controversial discussion surrounding airbags is whether we need them because of the many injuries associated with them.

Airbag Safety and Injuries

Common injuries that occur as a result of airbag deployment are:

  • Burns to face, chest, and hands
  • Abrasions to the upper body: chest, face, and neck
  • Contusions to arms, chest, faces, and knees
  • Wrist injuries
  • Eye injuries
  • Fractures to skull, ribs, arms, and face
  • Muscle soreness

  • Bruising, especially in the upper body around the chest and neck
  • Internal bleeding
  • Heart damage
  • Lacerations to Internal organs
  • Injury to the fetus of a pregnant woman
  • Hearing loss

This list is not exhaustive. It is easy to see why so many people think they are dangerous. With the airbag deployed, a victim stands a good chance of some injury, but, in a serious collision, the risk of injuries is greatly increased without the airbag.

Factors That Affect Airbag Injuries

The type and severity of an injury that might occur after a vehicle strikes another vehicle are determined by different factors, including:

  • Speed of impact
  • Wearing a seatbelt
  • Where the victim is sitting, especially the driver
  • Chemicals released may cause lung irritation and eye injuries

These injuries may be mild to severe or even life-threatening. Healthcare professionals should always check out a victim of a crash in which an airbag was deployed. There may be underlying issues, such as internal bleeding and fractured bones. Seeking medical treatment will also solidify any personal injury legal claims that may be brought forward.

Deaths From Airbags

While there have been just a few hundred deaths associated with airbags in the past twenty or so years, many of those deaths have been associated with Takata airbags that failed, and others resulted from the victim’s negligence. Many of these were smaller adults or children who were placed in the front erroneously.

Personal Injury And Airbags

Anyone who has suffered an injury accident due to a negligent driver has a legal claim. When the injuries are directly caused by an airbag, regardless of how severe, the claim may be more significant.

A secondary claim can be made if the airbag failed or malfunctioned. This is known as product liability. The injuries incurred because of an airbag malfunction can be more severe than if it deploys properly because the victims suffer injuries by colliding with the interior of the vehicle. Regardless of the cause of the personal injuries, however, it is imperative that you get medical help immediately.

There may also be a level of psychological trauma related to the accident after the airbag deploys. This is also part of the personal injury claim and is often referred to as pain and suffering.

Get Legal Help For Injury Accidents

While you do have some time to file a personal injury claim, the sooner you contact Plaza Injury Law the better. Don’t go it alone. Contact Donovan Dodrill to get the help you need.


Plaza Injury Law Practice Areas

  • DUI accidents
  • Bus accidents
  • Uninsured vehicle accidents
  • Dram shop liability
  • Rear end car accidents

Posted February 12, 2021 by Plaza Injury Law
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