Personal Injury

What If the Airbags Didn't Work During My Car Accident?

By Carol DiBari, Attorney
Airbags don’t deploy in every accident, but if they should have deployed -- and failed to for whatever reason -- in a crash where you were injured, you may have a claim for product liability.

A typical car accident case is pretty straightforward -- one driver is at fault, and any person injured in the accident sues that driver, or makes a claim with that driver's car insurance carrier. But sometimes, cases can get a little more complicated, and they become something more, something bigger, than a car accident case. One such instance is when an airbag does not deploy properly during a car accident, resulting in injuries that are more severe than they might have been if the airbag had done its job. Now, on top of the car accident case against the at-fault driver, the injured person may have a product liability case.

Airbags and Car Manufacturer Guarantees

Airbags are a standard, built-in safety feature in most new (and new-ish) cars, and they are meant to prevent or reduce injury in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, airbags are not 100% reliable or effective. Airbags may fail to deploy or may deploy incorrectly during a car accident. If an airbag is faulty and fails during an accident, an inured driver or passenger may have a claim for product liability against the parties involved in the manufacture of the airbag.

While most drivers believe that airbags will deploy in the event of a serious accident, most car manufacturers make no guarantees about when an airbag will deploy. By making no guarantees, car manufacturers try to insulate themselves from any liability for injuries sustained as a result of an airbag malfunction.

Types of Product Liability Claims

When an airbag fails, there are a number of possible explanations. Besides failing to deploy altogether, airbags may over-inflate or over-extend, or they may deploy unnecessarily or unexpectedly. In any of these scenarios, the injured person may have a claim for products liability. There are three main types of products liability claims.

Design Defects. Claims based on a design defect are based on the theory that there is some fundamental flaw in the original design of the product that renders it unreasonably dangerous to people who use it. For example, an airbag that deploys with excessive force might be the result of a design defect. Airbags with design defects are said to pose a current and continued hazard until the design is fixed.

Manufacturing Defects. Claims based on a manufacturing defect are based on the theory that, while the original design may have be sound, an error in the manufacture of the product made it hazardous to users. For example, an airbag is designed with tethers to keep it from reaching beyond its intended passengers, but if the manufacturer somehow failed to install the tethers in a number of vehicles on the assembly line, this would be considered a manufacturing defect that would usually be remedied by recalling the hazardous airbags and installing the required tethers (assuming the problem is caught before anyone is injured).

"Failure to Warn" Defects. Claims based on the failure to warn are based on the theory that the product lacked sufficient warnings or instructions. An airbag that fails to display a warning against children riding in the front seat of a car is the prime example of this type of defect.

Making Your Product Liability Case

In order for your airbag-related product liability claim to succeed, you will need to preserve all evidence related to the crash, keep a copy of the police report generated after the accident, retain records of your medical treatment, and save any information provided by the car or airbag manufacturer.

Because cases involving airbags can get very complicated, it's important to have an experienced attorney on your side. One of the attorney's key responsibilities is going to be investigating what happened in your case and preparing a clear and convincing argument for liability on the part of the airbag manufacturer, the vehicle seller, or whoever caused or contributed to the faulty airbag.

Your attorney will retain the right experts to determine whether the airbag functioned properly and whether your injury would not have been as severe, or would not have occurred at all, had the airbag deployed properly. That means enlisting the help of engineers, safety experts, accident re-constructionists or other experts. Learn more about Finding and Working With a Lawyer.

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