Buying a car can be one of life’s big decisions. You may put in a lot of time, effort, and research to find a vehicle that is safe, reliable, and affordable. When you finally find the right car you expect that it is in working order. What happens when the car that will be responsible for protecting your family has a defect that could do more harm than good?
Defective Airbags Overview
Airbags have been required to be installed in cars in the United States for more than 20 years. While tens of thousands of lives have been saved by airbags, they have also contributed to a troubling problem. In the first 20 years that airbags were required to be in cars, they were responsible for nearly 300 unnecessary deaths and thousands of unnecessary injuries.
As new safety regulations and advances in technology were implemented, the rate of airbag fatalities decreased. However, when airbag manufacturing and car companies began to take shortcuts American passengers were placed back in harm’s way. Defective airbags pose a significant threat of harm to vehicle occupants in the United States. Defective airbags are so dangerous that a massive defective airbag recall has been issued. To date, more than 42 million vehicles and between 65 to 70 million airbags have been affected by the nationwide consumer safety recall.
Defective airbags can cause serious and life-threatening injuries. If you or someone you know has been in a car accident and injured because of a defective airbag, contact an experienced California product liability attorney. Airbags are intended to keep us safe, not to put us in harm’s way.
An attorney will help you fight to hold negligent parties responsible for your injuries by filing a personal injury claim for damages. Contact Citywide Law Group today for a free consultation and to learn about your legal right to recover compensation.
How Can Airbags Be Defective?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), airbags can cause serious injuries even if they deploy properly. When a car is in an accident, airbags deploy at nearly 200 mph. Some passengers, including children, are at an increased risk of harm simply due to their size. Manufacturers and state legislators have developed warnings and regulations to minimize the risk of injury. You may be familiar with the warning labels in cars and state regulations regarding the positioning of children in vehicles. These are intended to keep children and other passengers from suffering serious airbag injuries.
When airbags are defective, like those subject to the Takata recall, the safety precautions and regulations may be of no use. The NHTSA reports that counterfeit and defective airbags have been shown to consistently malfunction in extremely dangerous ways. An airbag may be considered defective if it does not operate as intended.
Some airbags may be defective because they deploy too quickly or with too much force. Airbags intended for use in the United States are already designed to deploy with a greater force than airbags designed for use in Europe. This is mostly due to the fact that Americans are less likely to use seatbelts than Europeans. Airbags, which were originally only intended to supplement seat belts, have become a primary safety feature in cars. However, a defect in the force of deployment – which is already extremely powerful – can cause significant harm. Injuries from this type of defect can be more severe for passengers who sit very close to the steering wheel or dashboard.
Failure to Deploy
An airbag may also be defective if it fails to deploy at all. Airbags are designed to deploy in moderate to severe crashes. According to the NHTSA, this means that airbags should deploy when a car strikes a parked car while moving between 16-28 mph or faster. Airbags deploy primarily to protect a passenger’s spinal column from trauma. Passengers who are involved in car accidents where airbags do not deploy as intended are at an increased risk of serious damage to their spine.
An airbag may also be defective if it explodes during deployment. The defective Takata airbags generally fall under this category. When the airbag begins to inflate the force becomes too great and the pump explodes, causing metal shards and shrapnel to be propelled into the vehicle.
Takata reportedly chose to use a cheap chemical alternative to the industry standard. The cheap inflators, when exposed to heat and humidity for long periods of time, have been known to explode during deployment. In fact, these defective airbags have been known to explode even when the car is not involved in a crash. When defective airbags explode passengers are at increased risk of sustained serious and life-threatening injuries.
Injuries Caused by Defective Airbags
The extent of the injuries a passenger may sustain because of defective airbags will depend on why the airbag was defective. Did the defective airbag deploy too quickly or with too much force? Did the defective airbag fail to deploy in a crash? Did the defective airbag explode when it deployed? There are, however, injuries that are more likely to occur when an airbag is defective. They can range from minor to life-threatening. Common defective airbag injuries may include:
- Chemical burns;
- Hearing loss;
- Vision impairment;
- Broken bones;
- Airbag dermatitis;
- Internal organ damage;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Spinal cord trauma;
- Loss of limbs; and
Recovering Damages For Defective Airbag Injuries
When you are injured because of defective airbags you may wonder who you can recover compensation from and how much you may be entitled to recover. In California, if a product is defective you can generally hold the manufacturer, distributor, or seller of that product responsible for any harms it causes. Airbag manufacturers have a responsibility to produce airbags that comply with industry and regulatory standards.
Car manufacturers have a responsibility to design and construct a car that will protect you from harm. Car retailers have a responsibility to sell you safe a safe vehicle. If you have your car repaired, mechanics have a responsibility to use safe materials and follow proper protocols. If a manufacturer uses cheap materials or if a company or mechanic installs counterfeit airbags to save on cost they may be responsible for injuries that occur.
How much can you recover for injuries caused by defective airbags? The answer will ultimately depend on the extent of your injuries.
In California, you can generally seek both economic and non-economic damages through a defective airbag injury lawsuit.
Economic damages can be awarded to compensate you for verifiable costs you incur because of your injuries. Medical bills, rehabilitation, surgery, and lost earnings at work are all examples of economic damages.
Non-economic damages can be awarded to compensate you for intimate and personal harms an accident causes you to suffer. Mental anguish, pain and suffering, disfigurement, embarrassment, and loss of consortium are examples of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are very subjective and can be difficult to value. An experienced California defective airbag attorney can help you maximize your recovery by emphasizing the emotional trauma you have suffered because of your accident.
Experienced California Defective Airbag Injury Attorneys
Have you been injured because the airbags in your car were defective? If so, you may be entitled to compensation from the manufacturer, distributor, or seller. At Citywide Law Group, our attorneys have spent the better part of the last two decades helping thousands of accident victims recover the compensation they need and deserve for their injuries.
We understand that defective airbags can cause serious injuries and that a personal injury lawsuit can help to cover the extraordinary costs you may face after an accident. We want to help you get back on your feet after your defective airbag injury.
Contact the experienced California defective airbag injury attorneys at Citywide Law Group today for a free consultation. We will listen to the details of your case, determine which parties may be responsible for causing you harm, and answer any questions you may have.