Airbags are installed in vehicles to protect riders from any possible accident. However, defective airbags might fail to deploy as expected, causing severe injuries to the vehicle occupants. Such a situation requires one to take necessary legal steps to seek compensation for sustained injuries. If you are in Las Vegas and looking for an experienced attorney to help you seek compensation, get in touch with us at Dallas Horton & Associates as soon as possible.
Definition of Various Aspects Related to Defective Airbags
When it comes to issues related to defective airbags, several things are considered. Here are some aspects that one should learn while seeking compensation after sustaining injuries from defective airbags.
How Airbags Work
Airbags are air-filled bags that are found in different positions in a vehicle. They work by inflating as soon as a vehicle starts to slow down due to an accident. Once a part of the vehicle occupant makes contact with the airbags, the airbags begin to deflate to provide a cushioning from the impact.
All these mechanics are possible due to the range of sensors and minor explosions that are available in the airbag system. The system also has an accelerometer that detects any change with speed. If it detects a sudden preset in speed higher than the conventional braking system, it triggers the airbag circuit.
The circuit passes an electric current through a heating element, which ignites an explosive. The explosive ignites a harmless amount of gas that rushes in a nylon bag, which impacts the vehicle occupant’s point of contact. As soon as the impact occurs, the bags start to deflate until the vehicle stops.
Types of Airbags
Now that you know how the airbag works, it is essential to learn about the different types of airbags that a vehicle has. Here is a list of the types of airbags that are available in a vehicle.
These are the most common types of airbags. They are located inside the steering wheel and the panel in front of the passenger seat. These types of airbags protect the vehicle occupant from head injuries during a collision. They can also protect the occupant from side-impact if a crash has caused a lot of movements to the vehicle.
Side airbags include the curtain and the torso bags. The torso bags are situated in the seat and are placed to reduce pelvic and abdominal injuries. Curtain airbags are found in the ceiling of the vehicle and deploy to protect you from head injuries.
It might seem odd to have knee airbags in a vehicle. However, they are quite vital just like the other since they protect the vehicle occupants from knee injuries or bruises. They are located under the steering wheel and the glove compartment.
These types of airbags include the rear- window and rear-center airbags. They prevent back passengers from colliding with each other from the back window in case of a rear-end collision.
Seatbelt airbags are available in a specific vehicle model. They aim to minimize the risks that arise from seat belt injuries.
Types of Airbag Defects
Airbags can be defective in different ways. Here is a breakdown of the common ways that airbags can be faulty.
This is the most common type of airbag defect. Several aspects can lead to deployment failure and are described below.
Apart from the failure to deploy, there are specific airbags that deploy excessively, more than expected. This is common with airbags installed in American vehicles. American vehicle manufacturers usually install airbags that deploy quickly compared with others as a way to complement the failure to wear a seatbelt, which is common in the United States.
As you have learned above, the process of airbag deployment involves a small explosion that ignites the gas supposed to inflate the airbags. However, if a different material is used, causing an explosion, this can cause life-threatening injuries to the vehicle occupants.
Factors that Influence Improper Airbag Deployment
Several factors can lead to poor airbag deployment. Here are a couple of factors that can lead to poor airbag deployment.
Sensors have a lot to do when it comes to the deployment of an airbag. Therefore, if they are faulty, you do not expect the airbags to deploy. Faulty sensors result from manufacturing errors.
Airbags have fasteners, which are cloth strips that limit the movement of the airbags once they inflate. If the airbags are untethered, this means that there is no limit to the extent they can go, which will eventually lead to injuries.
When it comes to the kind of materials used in the manufacture of the airbag system, several types of material are involved. However, there are specific materials such as nylon, nitrogen or argon gas, talcum powder, and lightweight aluminum canister housing. If a non-approved material is used in the manufacture of the system, this can lead to defectiveness.
One of the widely known instances that involve the use of an alternative material is the use of ammonium nitrate other than tetrazole, which is common in inflating the airbags. This instance led to the famous Takata airbag recall.
Poor Designed Airbags
Poor design can also be a significant cause of airbag defects. Poor design can affect different types of airbags, causing poor deployment or other associated malformations. For instance, in Takata airbag recall, the poor designing of the airbags in question raised suspicion in their effectiveness hence the recall.
Having over-sized airbags in a vehicle can cause injuries to the vehicle occupant rather than protect him or her from danger. Such airbags are prone to shooting more than they should, which causes injuries on the respective occupant.
A natural collision should trigger the airbags, leading to their deployment. However, if the sensor is faulty, you do not expect them to trigger the deployment. The faulty sensors can cause the entire airbag system to fail to deploy or trigger some and fail in others.
In some cases, you might have a majority of the airbag system working, only to have the signal fail to activate the bag module. This usually happens when one of the airbags at the driver side deploys while the one at the passenger side fails or vice versa.
Defective Airbag Modules
Finally, every process that triggers deployment might work well only to experience module failure. This usually occurs from poor quality control or a defect in the airbag’s design. This is portrayed in the Takata airbag scandal.
Common Recalls Associated with Defective Airbags
A product recall is a formal request made by manufacturers to return a product after detecting an issue that might end up endangering the consumer or put the maker or seller into the risk of legal actions. One of the renowned airbags recalls is the Takata recall, which was initiated on 18th November 2014.
Takata Corporation was a Japanese automotive part manufacturer that had established production facilities on four continents. They are responsible for the Takata airbag recall, which is still active up to date.
The airbags that are part of the recall have defective inflators that can explode or cause improper inflation during deployment. The issue behind this phenomenon is a faulty seal on the inflator that allows moisture to enter into the propellant used to inflate the airbag, leading to a malfunction.
Therefore, this could lead to slow deployment during a collision or cause the inflator to deploy aggressively, causing an explosion, which might injure or kill someone.
Number of Death and Injuries Connected with the Recall
According to NHTSA, a total of 15 deaths have been experienced out of the defective airbags up to date. On the other hand, a total of 278 injuries have been linked with the faulty airbags worldwide.
Vehicles that were Affected by the Recall
A total of 41.6 million vehicles were recalled in the United States, which involves 56 inflators. The recall involves car models between the year 2002 through 2015, although there are several older models included in the recall as well. The recall affects over nineteen models, and only 58% of the total number of vehicles that need to be recalled has been repaired up to date. Of the nineteen vehicle models, the models that top the list include Toyota, Audi, Honda, Mitsubishi, Honda, and BMW.
Please note, NHTSA gave a critical warning on specific models, dubbed the danger of “alpha” airbags. According to this warning, specific Honda models of the year 2001-2003, Ford Ranger 2006 and Mazda B-Series trucks are at high risk of having an airbag explosion and can end up injuring or killing the occupants. Therefore, NHTSA warned owners of such vehicles to avoid driving them and have them repaired immediately.
Types of Injuries Sustained from Defective Airbags
Several injuries can result from defective airbags. These injuries are as follows:
This is a type of injury that involves wounding or damaging the skin, the epidermis, or the dermis. It usually involves minimal bleeding. A first-degree abrasion consists of tearing of the epidermis, while a second degree consists of the epidermis and the dermis. A second-degree abrasion might cause slight bleeding and scarring. A third-degree abrasion is quite severe and can lead to damage to the subcutaneous skin layer.
Abrasion results from the speed as to which a defective airbag deploys. This force that is propelled on the human body is extremely high, causing significant friction between the bag and the passenger’s skin, leading to abrasion. Extreme friction that is caused by the textured surface and the nylon can lead to second or third-degree abrasion.
The minor explosion that occurs after a sensor trigger warms the gas to ensure that it inflates the airbag. However, during an excessive explosion, the gas might warm more than expected, especially during a slow deployment. The gas will try to escape the airbags as it deflates, causing burns on the arms, face, and chest.
Sprained Fingers and Wrist Injuries
If the airbag deploys unexpectedly, it can cause sprained fingers or wrist injuries, especially if it involves the frontal airbags located at the steering wheel. Sprain fingers and wrists can be explained as a wrench on the ligaments that can cause extreme pain and swelling without dislocation.
Spine injuries occur when the airbag fails to body motion during an accident. This usually happens when rear-end airbags fail to deploy as expected. Therefore, the rear passengers end up colliding on the front seats, which in turn leads to back injuries.
Lacerations are deep tears on the skin. This results from the speed as to which the airbag deploys, causing metal fragments to contact the skin. The airbag cartridge usually causes the pieces during an explosive deployment.
Fractures and Broken Bones
Several factors can cause broken bones and fractures. This results from the side impacts and defective side airbags. This can cause fractures and breaks on the arm, legs, and neck. The injuries range from minor to severe, depending on the extent of defects that the airbag has.
Since most injuries that result from defective airbags affect the head, there are high chances of experiencing a broken nose. Such an injury might appear to be minor but also counts as one of the compensable injuries that result from defective airbags.
Neck injuries occur due to the sudden movement of the body. In a defective airbag, neck injuries result from the lack of cushioning after an accident. Neck injuries differ according to severity. Mild neck pains include whiplash, while severe neck pains include disk injuries, vertebral fracture, and spinal cord damage.
Facial injuries involve a series of injuries that affect the face. It can include soft tissue injuries such as burns, laceration, and bruises to severe injuries such as facial bones and eye injuries. These types of injuries result from the unusual cushioning of the face on an airbag, which has deployed ineffectively. Both mild and severe facial injuries can lead to scarring.
Injuries on the Fetus
If a pregnant woman gets involved in an accident, there are chances of injuring the fetus, especially when the airbag fails to deploy. The impact that results from a defective rear-end airbag can cause a collision with the driver’s or passenger’s seat. The kind of injuries that can affect the fetus includes miscarriage, congenital disabilities, premature birth, and fetal trauma.
Liability in Defective Airbags Cases
You need to determine who is liable for your injuries if you want to establish compensation for your injuries successfully. Here are a couple of entities that can be held responsible for injuries sustained from defective airbags.
The Vehicle Manufacturer
The vehicle manufacturer has the highest liability when it comes to defective airbags. They are responsible for the manufacture of every part of their vehicle even when other manufacturers are involved. In the case of Takata recall, all vehicle manufacturers associated with the vehicle models that had the defective airbags took the responsibility of replacing all the vehicles that were recalled.
The Part Manufacturer
The part manufacturer also has a responsibility in the liability of the injuries that result from defective airbags. In the issue related to Takata airbags, Takata corporation was supposed to take responsibility for replacing all the faulty airbags.
The Part Supplier
In some cases, a middle-man is used to supply a specific part of a vehicle to the manufacturer. In such a case, the vehicle owner can hold the supplier responsible for the defective airbags if the vehicle manufacturer is inaccessible.
Certified Automotive Repair
Every vehicle manufacturer has established a specific repair shop that handles anything to do with their vehicles. In that case, the repairer becomes part of the entities that can be held responsible for the defective auto part. In such a situation, you should establish that the defect resulted from their interference with the airbags, or inaccurate assessment. In most cases, automotive repair shops expect clients to have a valid warranty to be considered eligible for such a claim.
Recoverable Damages in Defective Airbags Cases
If you suffer any expenses due to the injuries that you sustained due to defective airbags, you need to be compensated by the at-fault party. These kinds of compensation are considered as damages. There are two types of expenses that one can recover. This includes compensatory damages and punitive damages.
These are damages that a victim or a plaintiff can recover from the at-fault party. They are divided further into two, which include economic and non-economic costs.
Economic damages are those types of damages that have a monetary value. This means that one can calculate the expenses that one has incurred straightforwardly. Economic costs are as follows:
These are the kinds of damages that result from the treatment of the injuries suffered from your injuries. This includes medical expenses incurred in therapies, prescriptions., medication, surgeries, and future costs. One must provide valid proof to the court to show that these expenses are genuine.
Injuries such as spine and back injuries can restrain a victim from his or her work. Therefore, the respective victim is not in a position of earning. The at-fault party should take responsibility for such cases and compensate the victim for the lost wages. This can last up to a lifetime, depending on the work benefits that the victim has.
Once an airbag deploys, it becomes unusable until it is replaced. This counts as property damage and is the responsibility of the at-fault party to replace the airbags. The at-fault party is also responsible for awarding any other property that was damaged due to the airbag defect.
Non-economic damages involve those types of losses without a monetary value. They are complex to determine due to the complexity of their nature. Non-economic costs are as follows:
Pain and Suffering
This is the physical discomfort and pain suffered from your injuries. They might also include emotional or psychological suffering, such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Loss of Consortium
The legal term used to describe a loss of spouse companionship or sexual relationship is consortium if the injuries sustained due to defective airbags led to such a situation, the at-fault party is responsible for compensating such damages.
Loss of Enjoyment
Injuries sustained from a defective airbag might end up changing the life of a person. Therefore, one might result in depression and low-self esteem due to results such as scarring or inability to participate in your day-to-day life. In such a case, you might be entitled to compensation by the at-fault party.
These kinds of damages are different from others since they focus on punishing the at-fault party due to their recklessness. For a court to award any victim with this kind of expense, the plaintiff’s attorney should prove that the reason behind the airbag’s effectiveness was as a result of gross negligence of the at-fault party. Punitive damages are quite high and can cost three to five times the value of the compensatory damages.
Strict Liability Rule in Nevada
You might be wondering how the court resolves into compensating you for all the damages incurred due to the defective airbags. This is achieved through strict liability rules. In Nevada, strict liability rule has four elements that the prosecutor should prove. These elements are as follows:
- The product (which in this case is the airbag) was defective due to warning, manufacture or design
- The defect was present when the product left the possession of the defendant
- The defective product was used reasonably and in a foreseeable manner by the defendant
- The defect has a direct connection to the damages or injuries that the plaintiff is suffering from
Once your attorney manages to prove these four aspects, you will have a high chance of winning your case.
Contact a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Dealing with a product liability case, especially one that deals with defective airbags can be complicated. It requires the intervention of attorneys who are well acquainted with various legal aspects related to defective airbag cases. We at Dallas Horton & Associates offer the best legal services when it comes to the cases associated with faulty airbags. If you are in Las Vegas, contact us at 702-380-3100 and let us handle your case.