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The Dangers of Airbag Injuries: Understanding the Risks

Injuries are common when an airbag deploys in a car accident.

Airbags are designed to deploy in the event of a car accident and protect drivers and passengers from serious injury. They have been widely used in passenger vehicles since the late 1970s, and today, they are standard equipment in most cars.

The widespread adoption of airbags has played a significant role in reducing the number of severe injuries and fatalities in car accidents, but despite their proven track record of protecting drivers and passengers, airbags can also cause injury themselves.

In some motor vehicle accidents, airbags can deploy too forcefully or too late, causing burns, abrasions, and other injuries to drivers and passengers.

Causes of airbag deployment injuries

The deployment of an airbag is triggered by sensors in the vehicle that detect the severity and angle of impact during a crash. However, these sensors are not always able to accurately determine when an airbag should deploy, leading to improper deployment. In some cases, a defective airbag may not deploy at all from a car accident.

Improper airbag deployment can occur for a number of reasons, including manufacturing defects, improper maintenance, or damage to the vehicle's sensors. This can result in airbags deploying too late, too early, or too forcefully, which can cause injury to drivers and passengers.

Airbags can also malfunction or be misused if they are tampered with or if the vehicle is involved in a crash that the airbag was not designed to handle. In some cases, airbags can malfunction during normal driving conditions, resulting in sudden deployment and injury to passengers.

These causes highlight the importance of regular vehicle maintenance and inspection to ensure that airbags are functioning correctly.

Common airbag injuries

Again, while safety features such as seatbelts and airbags are designed to protect vehicle occupants during a collision, they can also cause injury themselves. Some of the most common airbag injuries that crash victims sustain include:

  • Burns and abrasions: Airbags inflate quickly in a car accident, deploying at speeds up to 200 mph. This rapid deployment can cause friction and heat, resulting in burns and abrasions to the face, neck, and arms. These injuries are often minor but can still cause significant pain and discomfort.
  • Fractures and contusions: In addition to burns and abrasions, airbag deployment can cause more severe injuries, such as fractures and contusions. These injuries can occur if passengers are not positioned correctly in their seats or if the airbag deploys too forcefully. Broken bones can lead to long-term pain and discomfort and may require surgical intervention.
  • Facial injuries: While airbags are designed to prevent passengers' faces from coming into contact with the windshield, the force of deployment can fracture delicate facial bones, causing pain and disfigurement. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries may also result from the airbag's impact with the face if it is strong enough.
  • Eye injuries: Eye injuries are another potential side effect of airbag deployment. The rapid deployment of an airbag can cause eye injuries such as cuts, bruises, and even blindness.
  • Neck and spinal injuries: Airbags can also cause neck and spinal cord injuries, especially in cases where the passenger is not wearing a seatbelt. The sudden deployment of an airbag can cause the passenger's head to snap forward, leading to whiplash or spinal injuries. These injuries can be particularly serious and may require long-term medical treatment.
  • Internal injuries: The chemicals released during airbag deployment can irritate the lungs, leading to medical conditions such as asthma attacks, and cause skin irritation, known as airbag dermatitis. The forceful deployment of an airbag can also apply significant pressure to the abdomen, potentially causing damage to internal organs such as the liver, spleen, lungs, and heart. In severe cases, internal bruising or bleeding can occur.

Can an airbag hurt your chest?

Chest pain after a car accident involving airbag deployment is a common symptom among crash victims. The rapid deployment of an airbag can cause blunt force trauma to the chest, leading to pain, discomfort, and even broken ribs. In some cases, chest pain may result from an underlying medical condition exacerbated by the crash's impact, such as a heart attack or pulmonary contusion.

This is why it is essential to seek medical attention if you experience chest pain after a car accident. A doctor can perform a thorough evaluation to determine the cause of the pain and recommend the appropriate treatment. In some cases, chest pain after a car accident may also be a sign of more serious internal injuries, such as a punctured lung or internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Are airbags safe for children?

When an airbag deploys in a car accident and hits a child, it can cause severe injury or even death. Children are at a higher risk of injury from airbags due to their smaller size and weight, which means they are more likely to be affected by the forceful deployment of the airbag. As such, children under 12 should always be seated in the back of a vehicle.

Car seats and booster seats should also be used to secure younger children properly. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding height and weight requirements, and whether the seat should be rear-facing or front-facing.

Additionally, child airbag injuries are more common if the child is sitting too close to the airbag or not wearing their seatbelt correctly. Airbags are designed to work in combination with seatbelts, and not wearing a seatbelt can increase the risk of injury from airbag deployment.

Why didn't my airbags deploy in a car accident?

There are several reasons why an airbag may not deploy in a car accident, including:

  • Sensor malfunction: Airbags are triggered by sensors that detect a crash, and if these sensors are damaged or not functioning properly, the airbag may not deploy.
  • Power source: Airbags require a power source to deploy, and if the battery or alternator is not functioning correctly, the airbag may not deploy.
  • Wiring issues: If the wiring that connects the airbag to the vehicle is damaged or not connected properly, the airbag may not deploy.
  • Low-speed collision: Airbags are designed to deploy in certain types of crashes, and not all accidents meet the criteria for airbag deployment. For example, low-speed collisions may not activate the airbags.
  • Damaged or defective airbag: If the airbag is damaged, worn, or defective, it may not deploy properly or at all in the event of a crash.

Regular maintenance of your vehicle is crucial to ensure that all systems, including airbags, are functioning correctly. Likewise, you should be aware of any airbag recalls concerning your vehicle and address them immediately.

How a car accident lawyer can help

Despite the potential for injuries, airbags are a critical component of vehicle safety, offering vital protection during a crash. However, injuries can happen involving airbags, and victims may have recourse through the civil justice system.

Whether you were injured because of a defective airbag or you sustained airbag injuries in a car accident that was not your fault, it's important to know your legal options.

At Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law, our legal team can review the circumstances of your case, determine if you have a valid claim, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and, if necessary, represent you in court to argue your case in front of a judge or jury.

Our attorneys can protect your legal rights and interests to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your losses. To learn more about how a Houston car accident lawyer can help you, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Click here to download a printable PDF version of "The Dangers of Airbag Injuries: Understanding the Risks."

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