Why Didn’t My Air Bag Deploy in an Accident?

A vehicle’s air bags are some of the most important safety features to protect occupants in an accident. Air bags deploy rapidly inflating cushions to buffer a vehicle occupant’s impact with elements of the vehicle, such as the steering wheel or dashboard, in a car accident. Vehicle manufacturers design air bags to activate at the precise moment when the crash occurs. What happens, however, if the air bag does not deploy in an accident?

How Do Air Bags Work?

Air bags are complex devices that involve sensors, modules, bags, and powders or other materials to prevent the bag from drying out and cracking. The air bag’s sensors are in locations where an accident is likely to trigger them. The air bag control module uses data from sources such as accelerometers and speed sensors to know when to deploy.

The air bag will expand when the unit detects specific conditions, such as an impact to the front of the vehicle. Chemical propellants and initiators will inflate the bag at just the right time, ideally preventing the vehicle occupant from striking something in the vehicle and suffering an injury.

Air bags are single-use devices. Once something deploys an air bag, the owner of the vehicle must get it professionally replaced. Nonprofessionals cannot deflate or repack used air bags. They will not work as intended, as it will be missing its necessary supply of chemical propellants. Improper installation or repairs could interfere with the air bag’s ability to deploy when it should in an accident.

Possible Reasons Your Air Bag Did Not Deploy

It may have surprised you to find that your air bag did not deploy in a recent car accident. The lack of a working air bag may have caused or contributed to your injuries. The previous owner failing to properly replace a deployed air bag is just one of many potential reasons your air bag might not have gone off in a recent accident. They are complex safety devices with many opportunities for failure.

  • The collision was not severe enough. Your accident might have felt serious, and you may have even suffered injuries, but if your vehicle did not collide hard enough to trigger the sensors, your air bags will not have deployed.
  • The collision impacted the wrong part of the car. Your air bags will only deploy if the collision affects the part of the car where sensors are in place. An impact from the rear of your vehicle, for example, may not trigger your front air bags.
  • You have defective air bag sensors. If your accident was severe enough and did impact the proper parts of your vehicle, the issue may come down to defective air bag sensors. Defective parts, improper design, and incorrect software calibration can result in defective sensors.
  • Severed wires. It is possible that the collision severed or damaged the wires that allow your air bag sensors to detect a collision. A particularly sudden collision could make this happen, although air bag manufacturers design bags to fully inflated in 30 milliseconds.

If something interrupted the signal from the sensors to your air bags, they might not have deployed. Lack of chemical propellant and defective modules or other parts could also cause an air bag failure.

Liability for Failed Air Bags

Once you identify the cause of the issue, you may have grounds to file a claim against a responsible party. The manufacturer of the defective air bag, for example, could be liable to pay for the damages you suffered because the device did not deploy. You may be eligible to receive payment for your medical bills, physical injuries, pain and suffering, and lost wages from a failed air bag. Speak to an attorney about a potential claim if you were recently involved in an accident where the air bag did not deploy.