Airbags have saved tens of thousands of lives in car accidents since becoming mandatory automotive safety equipment in 1998. But occasionally, faulty airbags unexpectedly injure drivers and passengers. If you or a loved one has been injured by an airbag in a Nevada car accident, you should speak to a skilled Las Vegas product liability lawyer.
Car and car parts manufacturers have a legal obligation to make sure the products they sell are safe when used as intended. Those who are injured by unsafe products deserve compensation for their losses. The experienced personal injury lawyers of Sam & Ash, LLP have seen the devastating effects that defective airbags and other flawed products can have on people’s lives. If you’ve been hurt because of a malfunctioning airbag, we’ll fight for What’s Right for you.
Call us or contact us online today for a free review of your case. We’re ready to answer your questions.
How Do Air Bags Cause Injury?
The recall of tens of millions of vehicles with Takata airbags a few years ago grabbed headlines. But airbags have been injuring people since their introduction to U.S. car manufacturing in the 1970s.
Frontal airbags have been standard equipment in all passenger cars since the model year 1998 and in all SUVs, pickups, and vans since the model year 1999. Side airbags are offered as standard or optional equipment on many new passenger vehicles.
Airbags inflate upon impact in a car crash to provide a cushion that protects vehicle occupants from serious injury. Both frontal and side-impact airbags are generally designed to deploy in moderate to severe crashes and may deploy in even a minor crash. Sensors are supposed to indicate whether a crash is severe enough to warrant airbag deployment.
When airbags are triggered, a signal is sent from the airbag system’s electronic control unit to an inflator within the airbag module. An igniter in the inflator starts a chemical reaction that produces a harmless gas that inflates the airbag within the blink of an eyeless than 1/20th of a second.
Because airbags deploy so rapidly, serious or sometimes fatal injuries can occur if the driver or a passenger is too close to – or comes in direct contact with – the airbag when it first begins to deploy.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that from 1990 to 2008, more than 290 deaths were caused by frontal airbag inflation in low-speed crashes (National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2017). Nearly 90 percent of the deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured before 1998, and more than 80 percent of people killed were unbelted or improperly restrained.
Most of the deaths were passengers, and more than 90 percent of those were children and infants, most of whom were unbelted or in rear-facing child safety seats that placed their heads close to the deploying airbag. Short and elderly drivers, who tend to sit close to the steering wheel, also were vulnerable to fatal injuries from frontal airbags.
NHTSA statistics regularly focus on fatalities. They do not include the thousands upon thousands of non-fatal injuries suffered because of the same automotive equipment failure.
In some cases, the airbag is under-inflated or fails to deploy in a crash. Because of the lack of protection, the driver or passenger is injured worse than he or she should have been in the car accident.
Takata Air Bag Deaths and Recalls
Over the last decade, a Japanese company named Takata has become infamous for a massive airbag recall covering at least 63 million vehicles in the United States from nearly two dozen vehicle manufacturers. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.
Long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause the ammonium-nitrate-based propellant in Takata airbags to explode when deployed. These explosions spray shrapnel from the inflator device toward car drivers and passengers and have caused more than 400 injuries and deaths. The airbags were installed in cars mostly from the model years 2001 through 2015.
Models flagged as causing an extreme risk are certain 2001 to 2003 Honda and Acura models containing so-called alpha airbags, and the 2006 Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series pickup trucks. Also included are the 1999 BMW 323i and 328i. NHTSA advises that owners not drive these vehicles and seek immediate repairs. (See NHTSA’s list of affected vehicles)
A separate group of defective Takata airbags was recalled in late 2019. Unlike the airbag inflators in the larger Takata recalls, this recall involved non-azide driver inflators (NADI). The defect in the NADI inflators can result in the airbag either exploding or underinflating during deployment. In May 2021, BMW recalled 4,511 3 Series cars from 1999-2001 equipped with NADI inflators manufactured by Takata.
A motorist reportedly killed by an exploding Takata airbag inflator in January 2021 was the 19th Takata airbag fatality in the U.S. since 2009 and the 28th worldwide caused by the faulty inflators. She was driving a 2002 Honda Accord.
As of 2020, more than 11.1 million of the recalled Takata airbags in the U.S. had not been repaired, according to NHTSA.
Common Types of Airbag Injuries
There are several ways an airbag may cause injury:
- The airbag does not deploy when a collision happens
- The airbag does not fully inflate when deployed in a collision
- The airbag deploys too late during a collision
- The airbag deploys in a non-collision situation.
The result of an airbag malfunction is either lack of protection in a collision or injuries from the impact of the airbag. If a driver’s airbag deploys, the driver may lose control of the vehicle and suffer common car accident injuries in addition to harm from the airbag.
The more likely injuries caused by an inflating airbag are:
- Blunt force trauma, including fractures, to the face, skull, ribs, spine, arms, wrists, and hands
- Concussions and more severe traumatic brain injury
- Contusions, abrasions, and lacerations to the upper portion of the body, including face, arms, and chest
- Internal organ injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Fetal injury or puncture of the placenta in pregnant women
Compensation for Airbag Deployment Injuries in Las Vegas
Product liability law holds that the manufacturers of consumer products have a legal responsibility to make sure products are safe when used as intended or to warn consumers of any foreseeable risks of using the product. If a consumer uses a legal product as it is intended and is harmed by that product, the injured consumer may seek compensation for their losses, such as medical bills, lost income due to the injury, and pain and suffering.
A person harmed by a defective product may file a product liability lawsuit, seeking compensation from the manufacturer for the injuries. The claim would assert that the negligent manufacturer:
- Knew or should have known the product was faulty
- Failed to properly warn the consumer or end-user about the dangers posed by the product
- Did not provide adequate instructions for using the product safely
Auto manufacturers typically include warnings in their vehicles and user manuals about the danger posed to children or other small people who sit too close to airbags. Many late-model vehicles allow the user to turn off passenger-side airbags.
For a client whose injury was caused by an airbag that deployed incorrectly or failed to deploy, Sam & Ash would investigate to determine whether there was a defect in the product that the manufacturer knew or should have known existed. Unfortunately, product recalls often follow numerous reports of accidents and injuries caused by a faulty product.
In some product liability cases, multiple lawsuits already exist and are combined as class action lawsuits or multidistrict litigation (MDLs). When these cases are settled, as is often the outcome after several similar claims make a manufacturer’s liability apparent, members of the class or MDL plaintiffs may obtain compensation as approved by the court.
After accidents in which the airbag did not deploy, the investigation often determines that the car was purchased as a used vehicle and the airbag was not replaced after a previous crash. Airbags cannot be reused and must be replaced by an authorized service technician once they deploy. In these cases, the negligent car seller may be held liable for losses attributable to the lack of airbag protection.
When you entrust your airbag injury product liability claim to Sam & Ash, LLP, we will investigate your case to gather evidence about the defective airbags and work with your doctors and other experts to understand your injuries and the extent of your losses. Then we can determine the appropriate path seek justice for you.
We can build a convincing claim and negotiate for full compensation to you. We will talk with you and help you understand your options. As your attorneys, Sam & Ash will work from day one to protect you by gathering evidence for your claim, making sure you get the care you need and working to recover the compensation you deserve.
When you need someone to fight for What’s Right after an injury, the defective product lawyers from Sam & Ash are here to help.
Contact a Las Vegas Air Bag Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured by a faulty airbag, contact Sam & Ash, LLP as soon as possible. Our lawyers and support staff know what you’re going through, and we’re here to help. We’ll put you and your needs first and seek the most direct path to recovering appropriate compensation for you.
Contact our Las Vegas airbag injury attorneys today if you or a loved one has been injured by a faulty airbag in Nevada. We will handle your product liability claim on a contingency fee basis. You won’t owe us anything unless we win your case. Call us now.