What You Need to Know About Defective Airbags and Recalls

Car interior with airbags deployed

When airbags were introduced back in the 1970s, they promised a new level of safety for consumers. NHTSA estimates that dashboard airbags have reduced driver fatalities by 29% and fatalities by 32%. When you combine the usage of seatbelt and airbag, it reduces the risk of death by 61%. Those percentages equate to a significant number of saved lives and it is why frontal airbags are required on all new passenger vehicles and have been since 1999.

Airbag Defects and Recalls

But what happens when an airbag is defective? What happens when it fails to deploy, it deploys late, or it has an unexpected deployment?

In 1990, the first airbag death was reported. It was clear that early airbag design had safety issues. The design and production of airbags have gone through multiple iterations, and we’ve seen airbags improve as they progressed through the first and second generations of design. As automotive parts suppliers improved technology, deaths related to airbags declined. However, injuries remain fairly common in accidents with airbag deployment and product defects continue to force recalls.

Faulty airbags can create severe injuries or cause death. People are injured, lives are lost, and loved ones are left behind wondering what happened. All of this can lead back to a defective airbag that was designed, manufactured, or installed incorrectly.

The United States government tries to mitigate the risk by forcing airbag recalls. Unfortunately, by the time a recall happens, many innocent people have become permanently injured or lost their lives.

How do these defective products make their way into our cars and trucks? The airbag industry is a major player, and it’s big business. The global airbag market for automobiles is in the billions, and it will continue to grow as new designs and technologies arrive. The market is dominated by a few players like Autoliv, ZF TRW, Continental AG, and up until massive recalls hit, Takata.

Takata was forced to recall more than 100 million airbags. Take that in. Over 100 million consumers had defective airbags in their vehicles. They thought they were protected, but in reality, their Takata airbag could send metal pieces through the vehicle as it deployed.  The Takata airbag explosions have led to significant injuries including bone fractures, lacerations, traumatic brain injury, and blindness.

But Takata is not alone in its negligence.

There are several types of airbag defects that can hurt drivers and passengers. These include overly aggressive airbags, oversized airbags, untethered airbags, low-deployment thresholds, and other system malfunctions like electrical systems failures or sensor issues.

Over the years, automotive suppliers like Autoliv, ZF TRW, and Delphi have all dealt with airbag defects. And because they each produce airbags for multiple vehicle manufacturers, these defective airbags make their way in vehicles under many different brand names. General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler (now owned by Stellantis North America), Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota all have faced airbag recalls. Even the luxury brands of BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, and Mercedes Benz are not free of airbag defects and issues.

It is hard to fathom. How can something that was designed to protect vehicle drivers cause so much damage and loss of life?

Injuries Caused by Airbags

An airbag deployment can lead to a range of injuries. There are a number of factors that can lead to injury. These range from the design of the device and the chemicals used in manufacturing to the method of installation and the speed of deployment.

Common airbag injuries include:

  • Abrasions to the upper body and face
  • Contusions to the body and internal organs
  • Burns
  • Spine injuries
  • Fractures to the skull and body
  • Concussions, brain swelling, brain bruising
  • Lacerations critical organs
  • Heart muscle rupture
  • Asthma attacks
  • Dermatitis of the skin
  • Eye injuries
  • Hearing loss
  • Internal bleeding
  • Fetal injury or death

If you’ve had an accident and your airbag has produced injury, you deserve compensation for your pain, suffering, medical bills, and loss of work.

What to Do if You’ve Been Injured

If you, or someone you love, has been injured by a defective airbag, it’s important to take several important steps after the car accident:

  • Preserve the evidence. Preserve the vehicle and all evidence! Do not repair or sell your car or truck until investigators have inspected the vehicle.
  • Take photos. Use your smartphone to quickly capture the damage to your car, the state of the inflated airbag, the scene of the crash, the weather, and any other vehicles involved in the accident.
  • Call 911 and report the accident. It’s important to get an official account of the accident and a formal incident report.
  • Go to the ER. It’s important that you seek medical attention to verify all visible and internal damage is accounted for and treated. Save copies of your medical records.
  • Don’t talk to insurance companies. Insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart, so you have to avoid conversations until you can speak to a lawyer who specializes in product liability and personal injury cases.
  • Consult an experienced attorney. Locate an attorney who can protect you and your rights. You want someone who is experienced in accidents and defective products.

I’ve been serving accident, personal injury and product liability victims since 2001. I have nearly two decades of experience helping people just like you. There is a lot that goes into a claim or lawsuit, and I’m here to help every step of the way.

Recovering benefits and compensation is a lengthy and complicated process. Insurance companies will often pressure victims into making hasty decisions. What may seem like a fast and fair settlement can be grossly undervalued, and this can degrade your physical, emotional, and financial well-being for many years to come.

Let me help protect you, your family, and your rights. Set up a free consultation so we can discuss your unique situation and your options.

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Gregg S. Harrison has been practicing law in Texas since 2001. He focuses on cases involving all types of accidents, product liability, personal injury, and premise liability. Mr. Harrison is also an experienced family law and estate planning attorney. He is dedicated to helping clients through extremely stressful situations.