Airbag systems are as complex as they are important for safety. Many systems now monitor seat position and belt use or non-use to determine when and if an airbag deployment is needed in minor to moderate accidents to protect the occupant. With this ever increasing complexity, the ability to identify and prosecute airbag defect claims becomes more difficult.
Developing trends in airbag litigation reveal that airbag defects can come in many forms. Consumers and attorneys looking to evaluate the potential that an airbag defect played a role in their injuries should consider the possibility that the airbag failed to perform as intended.
Some of the more common airbag failures and defects are as follows:
Takata Exploding Inflator
2014 was a remarkable year in that we saw one of the largest vehicle recalls in history. The Takata airbag is used across many manufacturers in tens of millions of vehicles worldwide. A defect was uncovered that can cause some inflators to explode upon deployment, sending metal shrapnel through the bag and into the vehicle’s occupants.
While manufacturers had quietly been recalling vehicles with these airbags since 2008, the issue escalated into an international crisis in 2014 after the defect was linked to four deaths and dozens of injuries. Further, investigation showed that both Takata and some auto manufacturers had knowledge of the defect for years prior to any action being taken.
Inadvertent deployments of airbags
Sometimes an airbag will deploy or “fire” when it is not intended. An airbag deploying in the absence of an accident is a classic example of an inadvertent deployment, and can be the basis of a claim when significant injuries occur.
Late deployments of airbags
Airbags are intended to deploy within milliseconds of the airbag computer sensing that a crash of significant magnitude is occurring. However, sometimes due to sensor placement issues, faulty components, or airbag algorithm problems the airbag can deploy after it should. The result is that the occupant does not receive the protection intended until after the forces of the impact have already caused injuries that could have been prevented.
Failure of an airbag to deploy
Most manufactures design airbags to deploy in moderate to severe accidents. Airbags are neither needed nor desired in low speed accidents, as the forces required to deploy an airbag in time may do more harm than good when they are introduced in minor crashes. However, as airbags become more complex more and more fail to deploy situations are being seen. In these cases, consumers can sustain injuries that could have been prevented if the airbag would have fired as intended and designed.