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Did an Airbag Cause Your Injuries?

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3 Questions to Ask Before Determining if an Airbag Caused Injury or Wrongful Death

Although airbags are intended as a safety device, government documentation confirms they have caused significant trauma during vehicle accidents and are responsible for hundreds of wrongful deaths.

This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, given airbags deploy at speeds sometimes exceeding 200 mph. After experiencing an airbag deployment, many consumers say the airbag appeared to explode and compare the sound to a shotgun blast.

When questioning an airbag’s performance during a vehicle accident, you should analyze 3 critical questions before determining its role in contributing to serious injuries or wrongful death.

Question #1: Should the airbag have deployed?

Deployment depends on many factors, including your type of airbag. If it did not deploy and should have, you may have a “failure to deploy” or “non-deployment” case. In such a situation, the airbag would have deployed if the airbag crash sensor or other components had not failed.

One reason for deployment failure is a crash sensor malfunction due to faulty wiring that connects the crash sensor to the electronic control unit. Sometimes airbags don’t deploy because the car company did not conduct adequate crash tests when designing the airbag crash sensor.

In fact, many airbag systems sold to consumers were never tested in car-to-car crash tests, even though such crashes occur every day.

If the passenger airbag deployed, but the driver airbag did not deploy, the vehicle may contain a defective “clockspring” or coil. This electrical device installed in the steering column beneath the driver airbag transmits an electrical current to deploy the driver airbag. Reasons for a malfunction include design defects, inadequate testing, improper installation and improper adjustment.

In some cases, a passenger airbag will not deploy even though the driver airbag deployed and a passenger was sitting in the seat. This often occurs when a passenger presence detection sensor doesn’t work properly.

If the airbag deployed, but should not have deployed, you may have an “inadvertent” or unwarranted low-speed deployment. These can occur because of airbag sensor or other electrical defects.

Unfortunately, some manufacturers used inappropriate sensor combinations that are overly susceptible to low-speed, localized impacts, such as a vehicle striking a pothole or curb. Other sensor systems fail to detect crashes into a pole or tree. This may be the result of not having enough crash sensors due to excessive cost-cutting at the car companies.

Question #2: Did the airbag deploy late?

When an airbag opens late, impact occurs at a closer range. The extreme force can cause catastrophic injuries, even though late deployments often occur in minor accidents.

Late deployments can often be prevented using additional sensors and/or changes to the algorithms of electronic sensors. In some cases, the vehicle’s “black box” can confirm a late deployment took place.

Question #3: Did the airbag have specific crash safety features?

Crash safety features are added to airbags to reduce the risk of injury during deployment. These include items such as airbag inflators that inflate less forcefully, tethers that significantly reduce “bag slap” injuries, and vents that decrease pressure inside the airbag.

An investigation into these features is necessary to determine if manufacturing defects and quality control problems caused or contributed to your injuries.

In addition to crash safety features, the airbag system must also work together with the other parts of the car. For example, airbag crash sensors depend on the vehicle having a good structure or frame so the signal is received soon enough to avoid a late deployment.

Also, the instrument panel (I/P) or “dash” needs to be designed so that the knees and legs are not injured, while keeping the body properly positioned. And, when the airbag deploys, it must not create additional hazards for other components. For example, some passenger airbags are known to shatter the dash and send the pieces flying toward the passenger at high speeds.

You should get answers to these questions for any potentially defective front, side, curtain or rollover airbags. You deserve a safe and effective airbag during any type of a crash.