Failure of Airbags in Tennessee

Have you or a family member been injured by a faulty airbag?

There’s no doubt about it. Airbags save lives.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “frontal airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29 percent and fatalities of front-seat passengers 13 and older by 32 percent. Side airbags that protect the head reduce a car driver’s risk of death in driver-side crashes by 37 percent and an SUV driver’s risk by 52 percent.”

That said, on occasion airbags do fail or malfunction, resulting in serious injury or death to the victim.

How do airbags work?

According to the IIHS, “airbags are inflatable cushions that protect people from hitting interior components or objects outside [a] vehicle—for example, other vehicles or trees—during a crash. The instant a crash [occurs], sensors start to measure impact severity. If the crash is severe enough, the sensors signal inflators to fill the bags with gas in a fraction of a second,” with airbags deploying at speeds that can reach 200 mph.

When do airbags cause injury?

“Occasionally, the energy required to quickly inflate airbags can cause injury to people sitting or thrown too close to the airbag before it deploys,” writes the IIHS, before noting that this was a problem more common in the first few generations of airbags and less of an issue today. Yet airbags still can and do injure people, which is why the government issues recalls for vehicles with faulty airbag systems.

Specifically, airbags can cause serious injuries when they:

  1. Fail to deploy
  2. Deploy late
  3. Deploy with overpowering force
  4. Deploy inadvertently, typically in a low impact crash
  5. Possess a defect that can send metal shrapnel through the airbag and into a vehicle’s interior

Regarding #5, thanks to widespread news coverage, you’ve likely heard about the Takata airbag recall, a nationwide recall of defective frontal airbags produced by Japanese manufacturer Takata that affects 42,000,000 vehicles.

An IIHS advisory from September 2016 describes the defect:

The Takata frontal airbags under recall contain inflators with ammonium nitrate-based propellant. The inflators don’t include a chemical drying agent, also called desiccant, to counteract any moisture buildup inside the cartridge. Over time, the moisture-sensitive propellant can break down and become unsafe. Heat and humidity speed up this process. When the propellant degrades substantially, the metal inflators can become over-pressurized and rupture during airbag deployment, sending shrapnel through the airbag into the vehicle interior.

Because inflators that have been exposed to hot and humid conditions are more likely to malfunction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered manufacturers to replace the airbags on the oldest vehicles in warm weather states before replacing the airbags sold in states with cooler temperatures and/or lower humidity. In fact, the agency has published a priority list; if you reference the list you’ll see that Tennessee is classified as a “Zone B” state—prioritized ahead of cool weather states like Connecticut and Colorado (Zone C), but after “Zone A” states like Alabama and Florida.

A comprehensive list of vehicles affected can be found here; more generally, consumers can find information on recalls affecting vehicles in the NHTSA recall database.

Naturally, “recalled airbags should be replaced to ensure that occupants receive the optimal level of protection in a crash,” notes the IIHS.

What can drivers and passengers do to prevent injuries from airbags?

As one might expect, airbags provide optimal benefit when drivers and passengers are wearing their seat belts and sitting in the proper position.Drivers should sit with their chests at least 10 inches away from the center of the steering wheel … and areas on or around airbags should be free of objects that can either alter the proper deployment of airbags or become dangerous projectiles within the vehicle,” advises the IIHS. Otherwise, occupants are at risk of suffering the following types of injuries:

Injuries caused by airbags

Abrasions or contusions
Burns
Broken bones
Brain injuries
Spinal cord injuries
Death

We work tirelessly to help you collect for your injuries

Cases involving the failure of airbags are typically complicated cases that can involve multiple defendants. Our personal injury lawyers have the experience necessary to handle the most complex airbag failure cases, to ensure that all aspects of your case are explored and that all responsible parties are held accountable.

If you or a loved one has had the misfortune of being seriously injured by an airbag in Nashville or anywhere else in Tennessee, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Raybin & Weissman for a free consultation or call us at 615-256-6666.

The Best Lawyers in America
Raybin & Weissman, PC Rated by Super Lawyers
Attorney of the month
U.S. News 2017 Best Law Firms