What types of injuries result from defective airbags?

Airbags are designed to prevent catastrophic injuries which may result from a sudden automobile collision by inflating a balloon-like device to cushion the impact. Unfortunately, the process of inflation many times causes injuries itself. An airbag comes out of its housing at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. That speed may be more if the airbag inflation mechanism is defective. As one could imagine, when an airbag traveling at such a high rate of speed comes in contact with the flesh and bones of a human body, the body often suffers substantial damage as a result of such a degree of force.

The injuries suffered when a person comes in contact with an airbag are many, and can range from very minor to tragically fatal. The most common type of injuries reported when an airbag deploys are skin burns and abrasion. The speed at which an airbag inflates and is propelled against a human body is extreme and causes significant friction between the bag and the passenger’s skin. That friction creates heat and, combined with the nylon, the textured surface of the bag itself can cause burning and scarring.

The driver’s side airbag is located in the center pad of the steering wheel, within close proximity to where the driver holds the wheel. The excessive force of a malfunctioning airbag has been known to cause, at the very least, sprains to wrists and arms. In more severe situations, it is not uncommon for drivers to suffer fractures and/ breaks in the bones of the hands, wrists and arms. The accompanying force of airbag deployment striking ones face and head have been known to cause head and neck trauma as a direct result of an airbag malfunction. Reports of brain injury and skull fracture are not uncommon. Additionally, injuries to the abdomen and chest can occur after collision, many times resulting in rib fractures or spinal damage. Dislocation and fracture to upper and lower limbs can also result from an accident. Injured passengers have also reported eye injuries, facial abrasions, broken jaws, broken necks, and some of these injuries have been fatal.

Although erratic inflation and random deployment without provocation causes a large number of airbag related injuries, failure to deploy at all in the event of an accident has been known to equally cause traumatic harm. In either instance, defective airbags can severely injure drivers and passengers.

Chemical burns and respiratory injuries are not unheard of relating to airbag malfunction and deployment. Most airbag systems use an inflator which, when operating properly, generates a harmless gas to fill the bag. The gas, which is really a chemical propellant, ignites causing the rapid inflation of the airbag. The bag contains vent holes, which allow the gas to escape from the bag seconds after deployment. As a result of inadequate filtering of propellant as it leaves the gas generator module, there is a potential for small particles of the propellant to escape through the vent holes and be sprayed on the face, neck and/or arms of a passenger causing mild to severe chemical burns. Combined with talc, a dry substance used as a lubricant to allow the airbag to freely escape from its component housing upon deployment, the airbag propellant may fill the passenger compartment with a noxious combination that is inhaled by a panicked passenger. Once in the nostrils and throat, that chemical combination can enter the sinuses and lungs posing a significant threat to a person’s respiratory system.

With all of the possible types of injuries someone can suffer as a result of a malfunctioning airbag, it is essential that you have a qualified legal professional by your side to help you determine if the injuries you have suffered as the result of a car accident could be related to a defective airbag. If you, or a loved one, suspect you have been injured as the result of an airbag malfunction, you need the help of an experienced and aggressive attorney to insure you receive all the compensation you are entitled to, and all of the rights you may have are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call our office at (407) 888-8000. You will be glad you made the call.