Tag Archives: airbag malfunctions

How do airbags work?

Airbags are actually one component of a three (3) part system designed to protect occupants of motor vehicles when they are involved in collisions. The system is comprised of 1) an airbag module, 2) a crash sensor and 3) a diagnostic unit. Newer cars may also be equipped with an on/off switch, which allows the system to be deactivated.

The air bag module (the actual “bag”) is a bag that made of lightweight fabric, and an inflator module and is located in the steering wheel pad or instrument panel of the dashboard. It is comprised of both an inflator unit and the lightweight fabric air bag. The airbag for the driver is considerably smaller that the passenger because of the distance the bag is from the occupant and the physical space in which the airbag is housed.

The Crash Sensors are commonly located in the bumper or grille of the vehicle, but may be located in the dashboard or passenger compartment in some models of cars. There can be a single sensor, or multiple sensors in a vehicle. Despite popular belief, the sensor is not activated by impact, per se, but is triggered by rapid deceleration, or the rate at which the vehicle slows down. As a result, the sensors do not activate at the same rate at all speeds and in all crashes. Sudden braking, or while driving on rough or uneven pavement, normally will not create enough deceleration to trigger the sensors to activate the system if it is functioning properly.

The last component, the Diagnostic Unit, monitors the status of the air bag system. Activated when the vehicle’s ignition is turned on, the Diagnostic Unit looks for functioning problems within the system and illuminates a warning light to alert the driver the system is not working properly. As a safeguard against power failure, most Diagnostic Units store sufficient electrical energy to trigger the airbag in the event the car battery is destroyed in the crash.

An airbag is designed to execute two primary functions when sufficient deceleration occurs. The bag is designed to provide a soft “cushion” between the occupant and hard surfaces within the vehicle, and diffuse the energy of the crash across a wider area. The deceleration sensor triggers the inflation of the airbag upon rapid deceleration, and within seconds allows the airbag to deflate. A front end collision with a solid, stationary object (such as a tree) at 10 to 15 miles per hour (the equivalent of a 28 mph front end crash with another car because the other car would absorb some of the energy) will trigger inflation, activating a mechanical switch, closing an electrical contact, signaling the sensors that a crash has occurred. The airbag’s inflation system contains sodium azide (NaN3) with potassium nitrate (KNO3), which mixes and creates nitrogen gas. The mixture of the nitrogen gasses inflate the airbag at speeds close to 200 mph.

When operating properly, an airbag will reduce the frequency and severity of injuries in a vehicle accident. Wearing lap/shoulder restraints such as seat belts and sturdily constructed vehicle roofs will enhance the effectiveness of a property functioning airbag. Unfortunately, as a result of airbag design and manufacturing defects, thousands of unnecessary injuries and occupant deaths occur every year.

Despite all of the innovative ideas to make airbags safer, they still pose a danger in the event they fail to perform in the way manufacturers intended them to, and many vehicles with older technology airbags are still on the road. If you, or a loved one, are 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 your rights are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call us at (407) 888-8000. It is a call you will be glad you made.

Do airbags really save lives?

According to a recent government study, an estimated 3.3 million air bags have deployed in car accidents and the agency estimates more than 6,377 lives have been saved and countless injuries prevented. In 2009 alone, the insurance industry estimates that 584,000 air bags were deployed during accidents that year, including 84,000 passenger-side air bags. While clearly, properly functioning airbags have saved lives, there are also alarming statistics that suggest airbags can cause serious injury, if not death.

From 1990 to 2000, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified 175 fatalities caused by air bags. Most of these (104) have been children, while the rest are adults, typically shorter females. All the victims were involved in low-speed accidents they should have survived. Deaths in frontal crashes are reduced about 14% among right front passengers using their belts and about 23% among passengers without belts. However, deaths are about 34% higher than expected among child passengers younger than 10.

If you, or a loved one, are 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 your rights are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call us at (407) 888-8000. It is a call you will be glad you made.

What makes airbags dangerous?

Airbags are designed to deploy (inflate) in a fraction of a second to provide a buffer between hard surfaces of a vehicle and the passenger it is designated to protect. Upon rapid deceleration of the vehicle, an airbag can be propelled against the passenger at speeds approaching 200 miles per hour. As one would imagine, the speed of the deployed airbag exerts substantial, sudden force against the person it is designed to protect. That force has caused serious harm, and even death, to passengers, particularly young children and adults of small stature. The driver side airbag is housed in the horn pad of a vehicle’s steering wheel, directly between the parts of the steering wheel the driver holds onto with both hands. As a consequence, there is a great potential for the driver to experience wrist and arm injuries upon deployment. There are accounts of drivers having the sleeves of their clothes “melted” onto their arms of passengers when an airbag suddenly deployed. The outside of the airbag is made of soft, nylon fabric. Unfortunately, the speed of deployment can cause the soft nylon surface of the bag to have surface tension equivalent to sandpaper. It is not uncommon for passengers to experience friction and power burns, detached retinas, suffocation and impact deaths as a result of the explosive force resulting from the rapid deployment of a properly functioning airbag. A properly functioning airbag is still a supplemental safety device and is intended to be used in conjunction with a lap/shoulder seat belt. Many unnecessary injuries result when a passenger does not use a seatbelt, is located closer to the airbag than the airbag designers envisioned, and receives an impact upon deployment much greater than if the passenger was at the proper distance from the airbag. Even with the advent of side curtain airbags, the effectiveness of airbags and the potential dangers of airbag deployment are magnified without the use of lap/shoulder seat belts.

Despite all of the innovative ideas to make airbags safer, they still pose a danger in the event they fail to perform in the way manufacturers intended them to, and many vehicles with older technology airbags are still on the road. If you, or a loved one, are 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 your rights are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call Dan at (407) 888-8000. It is a free call, and the information you may receive could be priceless.

How are airbags defective?

Airbag deployment malfunctions can occur due to the angle of deployment, the speed of deployment, the completeness of deployment, and/or if the act of deployment does not occur properly during impact. Consumers have long complained about airbag problems, and have suffered injuries as a result of their failure to operate property.

Aggravating the possibility of injury that exists even when an airbag functions properly is the danger of injury when airbags malfunction. There have been numerous reports of deploying at low speeds or even when a vehicle has struck a pothole, resulting in unexpected injury from inflation. The failure of airbag system components, have also been the reported cause of unintended deployment. Malfunctioning components have also been the cause of airbags failing to deploy at all, resulting in passengers suffering the exact harm airbags were intended to protect against.

Since the first airbags were installed in automobiles, experts have cautioned that airbags are supplemental restraint devices, and should only be used in combination with lap/shoulder restraints. Seat belts were necessary to insure their effectiveness because airbags worked only in front-end collisions resulting in impacts in excess of ten (10) miles per hour. Seat belts are necessary to prevent a passenger from injuries that could be caused by side swipes and other crashes (now minimized but the advent of side curtain airbags), rear-end collisions and secondary impacts. Even with second generation devices, the effectiveness of airbags is only maximized when used with a lap/shoulder seat belt system.

There have been reports of some vehicles having airbag deployment as the result of the vehicle’s undercarriage violently striking a low object protruding above the roadway surface. Although there is virtually no front end damage in incidents such as this, high deceleration forces may result from this type of crash, causing the deployment of the air bag.

There is also a delicate threshold a deceleration sensor should be set at. A sensor that is too insensitive may cause an airbag never to deploy on a lower impact crash, resulting in injuries caused by the airbag not protecting the passenger. Conversely, if the deceleration sensor is set too sensitive, deployment may occur with an insignificant impact, such as coming into contact with a speed bump, causing a passenger to be struck by the airbag unexpectedly.

Problems may also exist if the timing an airbag is set to inflate to maximum capacity when the occupant collides with it is improper. If the timing is delayed or expedited, the occupant will collide with either the vehicle interior or the deflated airbag.

Despite all of the innovative ideas to make airbags safer, they still pose a danger in the event they fail to perform in the way manufacturers intended them to, and many vehicles with older technology airbags are still on the road. If you, or a loved one, are 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 your rights are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call us at (407) 888-8000. It is a call you will be glad you made.

How common are airbag malfunctions?

Unfortunately, airbag malfunctions as a result of design or manufacturing are all too common. Over 3 million vehicles have been recalled since 1997 as a result of airbag malfunctions. And the problems are not limited to only a few vehicle manufacturers. An estimated 50 automobile manufacturers have recalled at least one car model due to defective airbags. GM has recalled 720,000 vehicles for airbag malfunctions. Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai and Ford have also had numerous vehicles recalled because of complaints about airbag malfunctions. Even BMW, the premier luxury German automaker, has issued recalls for almost 80,000 of their cars manufactured between 1998 and 1999 because their passenger side airbags could deploy without even being involved in a crash, by simply hitting a pothole that resulted in no damage to the vehicle. Almost 600,000 of the Ford Focuses manufactured between 2000 and 2001 were subject to recall as a result of airbag burns and other defects. There were even reports of airbags in the Focus causing other parts of the car to catch fire. Toyota has announced that it’s recalling 214,000 RAV4 models and 94,000 Highlander and Highlander HV models for side curtain airbag issues. The voluntary recall covers certain 2007 and 2008 models, all of which will need a new Curtain Shield Airbag Sensor. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 1.4 million recalls in 2004 were related to air bag safety problems. In 2003, only about 350,000 recalls were related to air bag problems. NHTSA closely monitors air bag systems and the technology is getting more scrutiny since new regulations mandating smart air bags went into effect. Air bags continue to get more complex. Many of the air bag recalls involve wiring problems that could result in the air bags not going off when needed.

Despite all of the innovative ideas to make airbags safer, they still pose a danger in the event they fail to perform in the way manufacturers intended them to, and many vehicles with older technology airbags are still on the road. If you, or a loved one, are injured in Florida as the result of an airbag malfunction, you need the help of an experienced and aggressive defective airbag lawyer in Orlando to insure you receive all the compensation you are entitled to, and all of your rights are protected. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners would be honored to help you. Please call Dan Newlin & Partners at (407) 888-8000. It could be the most important call you ever make.