Local attorneys, Pat Nelson, Bob Bryan and Gina Cross of Nelson Bryan and Cross, sponsor this weekly column.
I was recently in an accident where the airbags went off. My face is bruised pretty bad. I’ve read about recalls on airbags. Are they all defective? Ramona, Carbon Hill
Although many studies have established the value of airbags in saving lives during a car crash, an airbag is only as safe as it is effective. When an airbag has manufacturing defects, it can cause more injuries that it prevents. Lawsuits based on defective airbags, as well as manufacturer recalls of airbags, are far more commonplace than they should be.
According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), airbags save thousands of lives each year. As such, they have become an essential factor in the crashworthiness of cars. One of the problems with airbags, however, is the fact that they are generally designed for the average man (whomever that may be). As a result, not so average men, women, and children can be at serious risk for injury, even if the airbag deploys as it should. For instance, drivers who are taller or shorter than average have been found at a 5% greater risk of serious injury caused by a deployed airbag.
There are three basic theories of liability in airbag injury cases: the airbag fails to deploy, the airbag deploys when it should not, or the air bag was not actually installed in the vehicle. The most common of these three is when the airbag deploys in a low-impact crash, resulting in death or serious injury.
Some of the most common types of injuries caused by airbags include injuries to the eyes, neck, head, brain and spine. In many cases, either the airbag was not installed properly, the airbag was defective, or appropriate safety instructions were not included in the vehicle. When an airbag is defective, either in its design or its manufacturing, the victim can make a legal claim under strict liability laws, without the requirement of proving actual negligence. Nevertheless, defective airbag cases, as well as most product liability cases, can be complicated to investigate and to litigate in court.
Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both in what NHTSA has called "the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history." The airbag defect has to do with the explosive devices in the metal airbag inflater. In the faulty airbags, those devices can burn more aggressively than they should, causing the inflater to burst and sending pieces of metal flying through the airbag fabric. This could potentially maim or kill the car's occupant.
The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015.
The accident and injury lawyers at Nelson, Bryan & Cross represent clients in most areas including Motor Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death Cases, Personal Injury Actions, Social Security Disability, Defective Products, Insurance Disputes and Bad Faith, Fire Loss cases, Trucking Accidents, Worker’s Compensation, Drug Recalls, Employment Law and Property Damage Claims. Call 387-7777 for a free consultation.
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