If Airbags Did Not Deploy in a Miami Car Accident, Is the Car Manufacturer Liable?
May 17, 2023 | Sagi Shaked | Car Accidents
Frontal airbags saved an average of 1,682 lives per year from 1987 through 2017. Airbags are an essential safety feature in automobiles. When used correctly with seat belts, they reduce the risk of severe injury and death in a Miami car accident.
However, when airbags fail to deploy or deploy incorrectly, the result can be catastrophic. In addition to failing to protect the occupant from injury, a defective airbag could cause additional injuries and harm.
When the airbags didn’t deploy in an accident, who is responsible? Could the car manufacturer or the airbag manufacturer be liable for damages? It depends on the parties responsible for why the airbags didn’t deploy.
When Do Airbags Deploy in an Automobile Accident?
Frontal airbags are intended to deploy in moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal crashes. According to the NHTSA, a “moderate to severe” crash is hitting a solid, fixed object going 8 to 14 mph. It is about the same as hitting a parked car while traveling 16 to 28 mph.
How Do Airbags Deploy in a Car Crash?
Airbags inflate because of a harmless gas produced when an igniter begins a chemical reaction within the airbag. Typically, the automobile sends a signal to the frontal airbag’s electronic control unit in a moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal crash.
The signal triggers the reaction that inflates the airbag. A frontal airbag can inflate in less than 1/20th of a second.
Side airbags inflate even faster. They are triggered to inflate during a side impact collision or a rollover accident. The sensors are located on the lower side of the vehicle and detect impacts of 20 mph or more.
How Do Airbags Protect Vehicle Occupants During a Miami Car Accident?
Both front and side airbags inflate in less than a second to provide a cushion to protect you from the impact of a collision. Frontal airbags protect drivers and front seat passengers from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, and windshield. Side airbags protect occupants from hitting the sides of the doors and side windows.
Airbags can reduce the risk of severe injuries caused by the head and chest striking the hard surfaces within the vehicle. After deploying, the airbag should deflate to prevent a person from suffocating. Unfortunately, if an airbag does not deploy correctly, the vehicle occupants can sustain catastrophic injuries or death.
Why Do Airbags Fail to Deploy in an Accident?
There are many reasons why airbags may not deploy in an automobile accident. Some reasons might be intentional since airbags are not designed to deploy in all types of car crashes. However, other reasons could be due to defects or malfunctions.
Reasons Why Airbags Do Not Inflate in an Accident
Common reasons why an airbag might not deploy during a collision include, but are not limited to:
- The driver or passengers engaged the ON-OFF switch to deactivate the airbag. If the switch is in the OFF position, the airbag will not inflate during a collision.
- The crash conditions did not trigger the sensor to inflate the airbag because the crash was not considered moderate to severe.
- The airbag turned off because it detected a child or a small-stature person sitting in the front right passenger seat.
- An airbag was not replaced after it deployed in a prior accident.
- The airbag detected a child car seat or child restraint system in the front passenger seat.
The above reasons are part of the system designed to protect individuals from airbag injuries in a car accident. If the airbag inflates during these conditions, it could cause additional injuries. Therefore, the manufacturers design airbags to inflate in specific types of crashes.
Common Airbag Defects and Malfunctions That Cause Airbags Not to Inflate in an Accident
Other reasons why airbags do not inflate can be attributed to airbag malfunctions and defects. When an airbag malfunctions because of a defect, the occupants do not have the cushion to protect them from the force of the collision.
Common defects that could cause airbags not to deploy in a crash or to deploy when they should not deploy include, but are not limited to:
- Defects in the airbag cause it to explode, sending shrapnel into the vehicle. The Takata airbag recall is an example of a defect that caused airbags to explode.
- Problems with the chemicals that cause the airbags to inflate too rapidly or too slowly.
- Sensor malfunctions in the automobile and/or the airbag.
- An installation error causes the wires from the sensors to the inflators to be positioned so they can be severed during a collision or normal driving conditions.
- Defective inflators and/or defective impact sensors result in failed inflation.
- Corrosion within the airbag or in the vehicle system that causes a malfunction.
- Faulty ON-OFF switches that are triggered without the owner’s knowledge.
Whether airbags deploy late, too aggressively, or not at all, defective airbags and systems can cause severe injuries and wrongful death. The types and severity of the airbag injury depend on the circumstances of the crash.
Common Injuries Caused by Airbag Defects and Malfunctions
Injuries sustained because of airbag malfunctions include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Internal bleeding
- Broken bones
- Facial injuries
- Loss of hearing and/or vision
- Internal organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Crushing injuries
- Lacerations and puncture wounds
- Broken and fractured ribs
- Chest injuries
- Neck injuries and whiplash
- Arm and leg injuries
- Back injuries
If a defective airbag injured you, you could be entitled to substantial compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. However, you must first prove that the airbag was defective and the defect caused your injury. A Miami product liability lawyer can help you with a claim.
Proving a Product Liability Claim for a Defective Airbag
A manufacturer can be held strictly liable for damages caused by a defective product under Florida product liability laws. The manufacturer could be held liable for design defects, manufacturing defects, and failure to warn of defects.
In a strict liability claim, the manufacturer can be liable if you prove:
- The airbag was defective when it was sold
- You used it as intended
- The defect caused injuries and damages
You would not need to prove negligence in this case.
However, defective airbag cases might also include claims of negligence.
Negligence in product liability cases requires you to prove the following:
- There was a duty of care owed to you by the manufacturer
- The manufacturer breached the duty of care when producing or handling the product
- The breach of duty caused your injuries
- You sustained actual damages because of the breach of duty
Negligence claims could be more challenging to prove. Likewise, claims of breach of warranty for defective airbags can be difficult to prove. In many cases, an attorney includes all claims in the lawsuit that are supported by the evidence.
Get Legal Help With a Defective Airbag Claim
A product liability claim for defective airbag injuries is a complicated personal injury case. These cases often involve multiple defendants, numerous causes of action, and expert witnesses. They also require incredible resources and skills to pursue.
If an airbag injures you, the best way to protect your right to compensation is to seek legal advice immediately. A Miami defective airbag lawyer can review your case and advise you of your legal options to recover a settlement for your injury claim.