Airbags in passenger vehicles save lives. Unfortunately, airbag failures and malfunctions do occur.
Even when they deploy as intended, airbags can cause serious injuries, even deaths. Claims for airbag injuries or airbag failures may result in compensation for those injured.
In this article, we cover:
- How common are airbag failures?
- What injuries can airbags cause?
- The 2021/2022 Takata airbag recall
- Recalls of vehicles due to airbag malfunctions in South Africa
- Product liability claims
- Airbag safety guidelines
- Help with an airbag injury claim
How common are airbag failures?
Front airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29% and fatalities of front-seat passengers aged 13 and older by 32%. Unfortunately, airbag failures are far too common.
While airbags save lives in the majority of cases, they can also cause injury and death.
The most common causes of an airbag injury is when the airbag is faulty or the crash sensor has malfunctioned. Airbag injuries can occur when an airbag fails to deploy or deploys too late. They can also occur if an airbag deploys when it shouldn’t, when there’s no collision.
Other reasons an airbag can cause injuries include:
- tearing of airbag fabric
- electrical and wiring issues
- poor deployment threshold
- airbag fabric catching on surrounding equipment
- failure to reinstall airbags in a vehicle with deployed airbags.
Airbags may also malfunction if tethers fail to prevent airbags reaching too far or there are mistakes in the number, location and size of gas vents and patterns used to fold airbags.
What injuries can airbags cause?
The rate of airbag deployment, chemicals used within the device and the airbag design all play a role in the injuries caused by airbags.
Common injuries include abrasions to the upper body; contusions to arms, knees, chest, face and internal organs; burns; wrist injuries and sprained fingers; cervical spine injuries; fractures; concussions, brain swelling, brain bruising and loss of consciousness; lacerations to the liver, spleen, veins, heart, arteries, lungs and brain stem; eye injuries; hearing loss and ear trauma; internal bleeding, and foetal injury or puncture to the placenta in pregnant women.
The 2021/2022 Takata airbag recall
The world’s second-largest airbag manufacturer, Tokyo-based Takata, is at the centre of another global vehicle recall.
Over the past decade more than 100 million cars containing Takata airbag inflators have been recalled globally over “fears their airbags could improperly inflate and rupture, potentially firing deadly shrapnel at occupants”.
The airbag has been linked to at least 28 deaths and more than 400 injuries worldwide. The recall is the largest and most complex safety recall in history.
The latest recall focuses on the efficacy of the chemical drying agent used in Takata airbags.
Recalls of vehicles due to airbag malfunctions in South Africa
In South Africa, more than 10 major vehicle brands have recalled upwards of a million cars for inspection as part of this latest Takata recall.
The recall has been to vehicles that were fitted with possibly faulty Takata airbag inflators between 2002 and 2015.
Product liability claims for airbag injuries/airbag failures
If you or a loved-one have been injured as a result of a defective airbag, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation.
Under the Consumer Protection Act of 2008, if you’re injured due to a defective or dangerous product such as an airbag, you may be able to claim damages such as past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings and general damages for pain and suffering.
In a claim for airbag injuries, multiple parties may be at fault, including the vehicle manufacturer, airbag supplier, airbag manufacturer and car dealer or automotive service provider.
The onus is not on the consumer to prove fault or negligence in a product liability claim. The entire supply chain is now required by law to ensure that all products are safe for their intended use.
Airbag safety guidelines
An airbag deploys at 300 km/h. When used with a seatbelt, a front airbag increases a person’s chance of survival by more than 60%. If a person is not wearing a seatbelt, he or she hurtles towards the airbag at great speed.
Follow these nine safety guidelines when using airbags:
- Seatbelts should be worn as tight as possible across the body.
- Drivers and front-seat passengers should sit squarely in their seat.
- Rearward-facing child seats must not be placed on the front passenger seat if an airbag is fitted.
- If a rearward-facing child seat is being used, the passenger airbag must be disengaged.
- A forward-facing child seat should only be used in the front seat if it can be positioned so the child is out of the deployment zone of the airbag.
- The driver’s seat should be positioned as far back as possible.
- Drivers should use the 10-to-two or quarter-to-three hand position on the wheel. If the airbag fires with their arm across the wheel, the impact could break the arm.
- Airbags should be replaced if they deploy and after 10 years if unused
- If your vehicle is recalled, always comply with instructions.
Help with an airbag injury claim
If you think you suffered airbag injuries or airbag failures contributed to injuries suffered in a road accident, you must consult an experienced attorney.
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims. We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Contact us at DSC Attorneys for the very best legal support and representation.