There are more vehicles on the road now than ever before. In fact, at the end of 2019, numbers reached over 279 million and are only expected to keep rising. However, the number of fatal automobile accidents is declining. Advancements in cutting-edge safety technologies play a large part in the lower number of fatalities, especially airbags. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over the span of 30 years, more than 50,000 lives were saved due to the proper deployment of airbags.
The unfortunate truth is that airbags can only be a benefit to the occupants of a vehicle if they deploy – and if they do so in a timely manner. Airbags can fail to deploy for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, there’s a manufacturer defect to blame.
There is no way to know if your airbag is defective until after an accident has occurred. After you or a loved one has been involved in an accident in which an airbag failed to deploy when it should have, you may want to know who is accountable for the cost of injuries. Console & Associates is a leading car accident law firm in New Jersey and Philadelphia with over 25 years of experience helping injured car accident victims receive the compensation they deserve. You can rest assured that our personal injury attorneys are well versed in this area of the law and will leave no stone unturned when it comes to handling your case.
How Does An Airbag Work?
Crash sensors throughout your vehicle are the brains behind an airbag’s deployment. These carefully placed sensors are designed to send an instantaneous signal to your vehicle’s electronic controller unit (ECU) in the event of an impact, including a crash with another vehicle or a stationary object such as a tree. The purpose of an airbag is to soften the impact and reduce the severity of both minor and fatal injuries.
When a crash occurs, your vehicle’s ECU and crash sensors work together, instantly transmitting data about the impact. Using an algorithm, the crash sensors determine if the impact was significant enough to meet the requirements for airbag deployment. If so, a signal is sent to deploy the airbags. Algorithms also determine which airbags to deploy based on the location of the impact. All of this happens in a split-second.
What Are the Reasons Airbags May Not Deploy Properly?
In a car crash, a lot happens in a very short amount of time. For airbags to deploy as they should, every little component must be in working order. It comes as no surprise that there are instances in which airbags either deploy too late or not at all. The possible reasons for airbags failing to deploy can include:
- One or more defective crash sensors
- Faulty wiring
- Damaged electrical parts
- Defective airbag housing
- Failure to replace deployed airbags after an impact
- Mechanical defects
- Misinterpretation of the crash by the vehicle’s computer as being too minor to warrant airbag deployment
- Detection of a small child in the front or back seat that prevents either the front or side airbags from deploying
Who is Responsible if an Airbag Fails to Deploy?
When one or more airbags failed to deploy in a car accident, the vehicle occupants may be entitled to compensation. Depending on the nature of the accident, there are a few different avenues that a defective seat belt accident victim may use to pursue compensation. Keep in mind that occupants may be able to sue more than one defendant, or at-fault party, for accident injuries.
Claims Against Another Driver
If another driver is to blame for the accident, then the victim can place a claim against that driver. This is the most common source of compensation that most car accident victims pursue. The other driver’s negligent actions behind the wheel might appear on the official police report regarding your accident, or they may come to light as an attorney investigates the cause of the crash.
Product Liability Claims
Product liability claims are an often overlooked form of compensation for car accident victims injured because of airbag deployment failures. If the airbags did not deploy when they should have, you may be able to pursue a claim against either the vehicle manufacturer, the manufacturer of the airbags, or both.
Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their products work correctly, and they are liable when defective products make it to the market and cause injury. Most states follow the strict liability theory, which states that manufacturers are liable for defective components of their products, even if the manufacturer wasn’t aware that these components were defective.
There are three types of product liability claims:
- Design defect claims – The claim that all products with this particular design are defective. Improper placement of crash sensors that render them ineffective is one example of a design defect that may lead to a claim.
- Manufacturing defect claims – This type of claim states that there is a flaw in how the product was made. For example, you may claim that the specific crash sensors in your vehicle are defective, but not all of the crash sensors produced are defective.
- Failure-to-Warn claim – This is a claim that comes about when a product cannot be used as it was intended without being inherently dangerous and does not include the appropriate warnings, labels, and instructions to minimize these hazards.
Car accident victims must meet the minimum requirements in order to file a product liability claim. These requirements include:
- The airbag should have deployed, but either failed to or deployed too late.
- The failure to deploy was due to a defect in either the design or manufacturing.
- The victim suffered injuries that were either caused or were more severe by the malfunctioning of the airbag.
Backing a claim that an airbag should have deployed when it did not or should have deployed sooner, as well as why it failed to deploy, will take more than just the police report and the victim’s word. Expert witnesses may be called in to explain to a judge the technical aspects of why the airbag did not deploy. In complicated cases, additional witnesses such as medical experts and engineers may be required to prove how and why the victim’s injuries were caused by airbag failure.
The Compensation You Deserve
Car accident victims who have sustained injuries due to any type of airbag failure may be dealing with exorbitant medical bills, loss of wages, and personal grief and suffering. It is important to consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney who can evaluate the case and discuss options for appropriate compensation.