How Do Airbag Injuries Happen?

Airbags are important safety features of your vehicle. Designed to inflate upon serious impact, the airbag can prevent vehicle occupants from slamming into the steering wheel, car doors, or other vehicle parts in a collision. In 2015, frontal airbags saved an estimated 44,869 lives. Unfortunately, airbags aren’t perfect – the force of inflation and airbag malfunctions can cause injuries and deaths. Here’s a look at how common airbag injuries can happen, and what to do if this is how you sustained your car accident injury.

Incorrect Airbag Deployment

A main factor behind airbag injuries is airbag malfunction. There are a number of ways an airbag can malfunction and cause injury, such as a defective crash sensor. A malfunctioning crash sensor can cause an airbag to deploy too early, too late, or for no reason at all. If an airbag deploys when you’re simply driving down the road, it could cause a serious accident.

Airbags also should not deploy in low-impact or minor accidents. During these crashes, deployment could cause more injuries than it prevents. If the airbag fails to deploy in a serious accident, it has failed in its duty to prevent injury. An airbag deploying at the wrong time – even by a fraction of a second – can make a big difference in the severity of injuries the driver and passengers suffer in a collision. For example, deploying just a beat too late can mean the airbag strikes the driver’s head too close to the steering wheel, causing a concussion or neck injury.

If the crash sensor or another defective part causes an airbag to deploy at the incorrect time, an injured person could potentially bring a claim against the airbag manufacturer or distribution company. It is the manufacturer’s duty to make sure its airbags do not have defects that make them hazardous to use. If the injured party can prove that the airbag had a defect, and that this defect caused an injury, this could be enough to bring a product liability claim.

Airbag Explosion

Airbags should deploy safely and correctly, inflating a bag using a reaction between two substances that creates nitrogen gas. As the bag expands, it bursts from the dashboard to help prevent serious injuries. In the past, there have been cases of airbags failing to inflate properly. In the worst scenarios (including the recent Takata airbag recall), airbags have actually exploded and caused injuries to passengers. Faulty airbags could deploy improperly and shoot pieces of metal toward occupants in an accident. Flying shrapnel can cause serious to fatal lacerations, puncture wounds, eye injuries, and many other harms.

Exposure to Harmful Chemicals

Airbags rely on several chemicals to deploy in an accident. The two substances that mix to create hot nitrogen gas are sodium azide and potassium nitrate. The release of sodium azide in the air could result in skin irritation, burn injuries, and other health problems if the passengers breathe the substance in. In the past (but not as often in newer models), airbags also sometimes used talcum powder to keep the bags pliable while stored away in the dashboard. This powder could potentially cause respiratory and other health problems if inhaled.

Traumatic Injuries from the Force of the Airbag

In some circumstances, the force with which the airbag bursts from the dash can in itself cause injuries – especially injuries to the face, neck, and spinal cord. Retinal detachment or eye globe rupture could occur from an airbag striking the face. The chance of these types of airbag injuries increases in passengers who don’t wear seatbelts, or in passengers too young to withstand impact from an airbag. Sitting too closely to the steering wheel or dashboard can also increase the risk of airbag injuries.

After an airbag injury, seek help from a Nashville personal injury attorney. You might have grounds to file a claim against the manufacturer of the device and/or another party in pursuit of financial compensation.