If an airbag within a vehicle fails to deploy in a crash, and someone is injured as a result, the victim may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the airbag, the carmaker, and any other connected parties. Our team of defective airbag lawyers is highly skilled at analyzing all legal options, pinpointing liable parties, collecting evidence, and vigorously pursuing the recovery of damages for the victim.
Malfunctions and Defects of Airbags That Cause Injury
Airbags can be defective or malfunction in various ways. The following is a partial list:
- Airbag failed to deploy. Granted, an airbag doesn’t activate in every single accident. If a wreck is sufficiently intense, however, the airbag is supposed to inflate. Regardless of whether a passenger is using a seat belt, if an airbag fails to properly deploy in a collision, major injuries can result.
- Airbag wrongly deploys. On occasion, airbags have suddenly inflated and caused injuries when a vehicle hit a large pothole or a curb. At times, this type of accidental airbag deployment has even ended in a wreck, because the driver lost control of the vehicle when getting hit in the face by an unexpected inflated airbag.
- Airbag aggressively deploys. Airbags work best at minimizing injuries when a collision takes place at a high rate of speed. In lower-speed crashes, though, these same safety devices can be the cause of the injury rather than safeguarding vehicle occupants. Overly aggressive deployment of airbags can be extremely dangerous for children and small-statured adults.
- Late deployment of an airbag. Telltale signs of an airbag that did not deploy in time include a steering wheel or dashboard marks showing the occupant made contact with these items during the crash. If the steering wheel is bent, this can also be an indication that the airbag was deployed late. In some cases, this malfunction has led to worse injuries than if the airbag hadn’t deployed at all.
- No side airbags or inadequate ones. While the federal government does not require rollover airbags or side airbags in vehicles, these safety features help reduce injuries in side-impact collisions.
Why Airbags Fail to Deploy
Among the reasons for airbag deployment failure, the following are common:
Crash Sensors are Defective – Airbag deployment is dependent on a crash sensor to detect if there’s been an impact, followed by a signal telling the airbag to deploy. If the sensor is defective, there may be no signal sent. The malfunction could stem from faulty sensor design, improper sensor installation, or incorrect calibration.
An important factor in the activation of an airbag is the specific angle and amount of impact force required to trigger deployment. Proving in a court of law that an airbag failed to deploy when it should have will likely involve being able to substantiate specific circumstances such as these.
Electrical Component or Computer Control Problems – Upon impact, the sensors are triggered and send an electrical signal to the airbag to deploy. Any defect in one of the many electric components could stop the airbag from getting the message correctly. If the wiring for an airbag is routed by the automaker into tight or small spaces, it is possible for the wiring to become damaged, thus keeping the sensor’s signal from reaching the airbag.
Additional Airbag Defects – If there are problems in the airbag module itself, deployment could be thwarted. There are numerous components in this module, and each one plays a crucial part in deployment. Any manufacturing defect, design defect, or even errors within the testing procedure or with quality control processes could result in a deployment failure.
What Must be Proven in a Defective Airbag Lawsuit?
When an airbag fails to deploy and injury occurs, certain points must be proven to have a successful lawsuit against a vehicle manufacturer. All of the following must be shown:
- Airbag did not deploy but should have
- Airbag is defective
- Severe injuries occurred, either caused by or worsened by the airbag’s failure to deploy
- Physical, financial or emotional damage has been suffered
Expert Witnesses in Airbag Lawsuit
In order to effectively show in court the above mentioned points along with other important elements, expert witnesses may be called to testify. Their testimony will center on how the crash happened, the reason for the airbag’s failure to deploy, and how this malfunction caused or worsened an injury.
Any or all of the following expert witnesses may be called:
- Product designers
- Survey teams
- Medical experts
- Accident reconstruction specialists
Types of Claims in a Defective Airbag Lawsuit
As mentioned earlier, a manufacturing defect could be responsible for the failure of an airbag to properly deploy when a moderate to severe collision occurs. Or, as seen in the recall involving Takata airbags, if an airbag wrongly deploys when it shouldn’t, this could also be a manufacturing defect. Claims typically belong in one of these product liability categories: design defect, manufacturing defect or marketing defect.
Design Defect – If there is a flaw in the airbag’s design that causes potentially fatal consequences when it malfunctions, as with Takata airbags, a lawsuit could claim a design defect.
Manufacturing Defect – Other times, the product’s design is not unsafe, but the airbag was not correctly manufactured to the design’s specifications. This element is easier to prove in court by showing that the manufacturing process was not done in accordance with the design’s requirements.
Marketing Defect – In cases where a product is incorrectly labeled or where proper instructions or warning labels are not provided, this could constitute a marketing defect claim.
Who is Responsible for Resultant Injuries?
A number of parties may be held responsible for damages if an airbag did not properly operate due to a product defect. Under product liability laws, any harm done to consumers by a product becomes the financial responsibility of the manufacturer. Some potentially liable parties may include:
- Product designer, if a flaw in the design caused the failure
- Manufacturer, if defective airbags were created during the manufacturing
- Distributor, if while transporting or storing product, airbags were damaged, causing failure
- Installers or testers, if improper installation or testing occurred
- Vehicle manufacturer, if other vehicle components adversely affected airbags
Do You Need a Defective Airbag Lawyer?
Looking objectively at a potentially complex product liability case takes the skilled experience of an attorney who has already tackled similar cases and won. You need expert witnesses to help prove that your injuries resulted from a defective airbag. We can assist with this plus more.
Schedule a no-obligation consultation with The Eichholz Law Firm to discuss your options.