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Airbag Injuries

Airbag Deployment Injuries From Car Accidents

While airbags are crucial for protecting passengers during a car accident and airbags reduce driver fatalities, their deployment can sometimes cause an airbag injury. These airbag injuries might range from mild to severe and include abrasions or burns on the face and arms, given the speed at which an airbag deploys. There’s also the risk of impact injuries such as bruises or fractures to the rib cage, collarbone, or even more severe injuries to the neck and spine. Additionally, the chemicals released upon airbag deployment can cause respiratory or eye irritations, particularly in individuals with pre-existing conditions or sensitivities. Airbags combined with properly used seatbelts are the best line of defense to protect both drivers and passengers from serious injury when involved in a car accident. If you have been injured in a car accident by an airbag deployment, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim. Call the car accident lawyers at PhillyLaw for a free consultation.

How Airbags Protect the Occupants of a Vehicle

Airbags are designed to act as a supplemental restraint system (SRS) that works in tandem with seat belts to protect occupants in the event of a collision. They are made from a lightweight fabric and are folded into various locations around the vehicle, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, and side panels. Upon impact, sensors in the vehicle detect a collision and trigger the airbag’s inflation system. This system releases a gas — typically nitrogen or argon — that rapidly inflates the airbag. The entire process occurs in milliseconds, with the airbag fully inflating before the occupant makes contact, thereby cushioning the impact and reducing the risk of severe injuries. After deployment, the airbag deflates quickly, allowing occupants to exit the vehicle.

Airbags Protect the Driver from a Steering Wheel Injury

Airbags play a pivotal role in protecting the driver from potential steering wheel injuries during a frontal collision. The steering wheel airbag is specifically designed to prevent the driver’s face and upper body from impacting the rigid surface of the steering wheel, which can lead to severe facial and thoracic injuries. Upon collision detection, the airbag located in the steering column rapidly inflates, creating a buffer zone between the driver and the steering wheel. This not only cushions the impact but also distributes the force of the collision across a broader area of the driver’s body, significantly reducing the concentration of impact on any single part.

Frontal Airbag Efficacy in Driver Protection

The protection provided by frontal airbags to drivers in the event of a collision is substantial. These airbags are specifically engineered to deploy during frontal impacts, safeguarding the driver against direct contact with the steering wheel, dashboard, and windshield. By absorbing much of the collision force and spreading it over a larger area of the body, frontal airbags significantly reduce the severity of potential injuries. This includes lowering the risk of critical head, neck, and chest injuries, which are common in high-impact collisions. Consequently, the presence of a functioning frontal airbag system is a key factor in enhancing driver safety, underscoring its importance in vehicle safety design.

Airbags Protect Passengers

Similarly, airbags protect vehicle passengers beyond just the driver, playing a critical role in mitigating injuries during a collision. Side airbags, for instance, are crucial for passengers, as they inflate between the door and the occupant to protect against side-impact forces, which can be particularly harmful due to the limited space for deformation. These airbags reduce the risk of injuries to the pelvis, chest, and head by absorbing and dispersing the energy of the impact.

Furthermore, curtain airbags deploy from the ceiling to cover the windows, protecting occupants’ heads from hitting the glass or being struck by flying debris. By cushioning the occupants during the crash and preventing direct contact with the vehicle’s hard interior surfaces and external objects, airbags significantly lower the incidence and severity of injuries. This comprehensive network of protection highlights the ingenuity behind airbag technology, specifically engineered to ensure the safety of all vehicle occupants, regardless of their seating position.

How Can Airbags Cause Injury?

Despite their role as a key safety feature, airbags can cause injuries to vehicle occupants through several mechanisms.

Force of Airbag Deployment Can Cause Injury

One common cause of airbag-related injuries is the force of the airbag deployment itself. Because airbags must inflate rapidly to be effective during a crash, the explosion-like force can result in abrasions or burns, especially on exposed skin.

Occupants are Too Close to Airbag

Additionally, if occupants are too close to or improperly positioned relative to the airbag at the time of deployment, the impact can cause more severe airbag injuries like fractures or internal injuries.

Chemicals from the Airbag Cause Injury

The chemicals that cause injury when an airbag is deployed include sodium hydroxide, which can create a fine powder upon deployment. This powder, though primarily intended to prevent the airbag fabric from sticking together, can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract upon contact. Another chemical, nitrogen gas, is harmless in itself but can become a hazard if the deployment system malfunctions, releasing high concentrations of the gas within the cabin. While these chemicals are essential for the airbag’s rapid inflation and effectiveness in protecting passengers, they can pose risks under certain conditions, emphasizing the complexity of ensuring safety features do not inadvertently cause harm.

Children and Smaller Adults are at Higher Risk of Airbag Injuries

Children and smaller adults are particularly vulnerable to airbag injuries for several reasons primarily related to their physical stature and seating position. Firstly, due to their smaller size, children and petite adults may sit closer to the airbag module, placing them within the high-risk zone for injury when the airbag deploys. The intense force of an exploding airbag is designed to protect an average-sized adult, but for smaller bodies, this force can be overwhelming, increasing the likelihood of head, neck, or chest injuries. Additionally, children often shift position or slouch, which can lead to improper alignment with the airbag upon deployment, exacerbating the risk of injury. This proximity and potential for misalignment significantly heighten the danger for these individuals compared to their larger counterparts, making airbag safety a critical consideration for drivers with young or petite passengers.

Occupants are not Wearing Seatbelts Properly

Lastly, airbags may not fully protect occupants who are not wearing seatbelts properly, as they are designed to work in tandem with seatbelts, not as a replacement.

This complex interplay of factors underscores the need for proper vehicle maintenance, seat positioning, and seatbelt use to maximize airbag safety benefits while minimizing risks.

Common Airbag Injuries

Despite the lifesaving capabilities of airbags, their deployment can sometimes result in a range of injuries.

Facial Abrasions and Burns

Common airbag injuries include facial injuries like abrasions and burns due to the friction and chemicals when the airbag deploys.

Hearing Loss

In some cases, individuals may experience temporary or even lasting hearing loss from the loud noise of the airbag deployment.

Chest Injuries

Chest injuries are also a prevalent airbag injury, especially in the form of bruises or contusions due to the force of impact against the airbag.

Serious Injuries

More severe and less common airbag injuries might include serious injuries like fractures to the ribs or facial bones, and in rare situations, neck injuries, spinal injuries or traumatic brain injuries can occur. While serious injuries from airbag deployment like traumatic brain injuries are rare, the risk of such injuries underscores the importance of properly using seat belts and maintaining an appropriate distance from airbags while seated in a vehicle.

Strategies to Prevent Airbag-related Injuries

To safeguard yourself and other vehicle occupants from airbag-related injuries, implementing several key strategies is essential.

Wear Your Seatbelt

First and foremost, always wear your seatbelt correctly; it should be snug across your pelvis and chest, never under your arm or behind your back. This not only keeps you in the correct position during a crash but also ensures that the airbag can protect you without causing injury.

Proper Positioning to Leverage Airbag Protection

To maximize the protective benefits of airbags while minimizing the risk of injury from their deployment, vehicle occupants should adhere to specific positioning guidelines. For drivers, adjusting the seat to maintain at least a 10-inch distance between the center of the steering wheel and the chest is crucial. This distance allows the airbag to deploy fully and effectively cushion the impact. The steering wheel should be tilted towards the chest rather than the face or neck to direct the force of the airbag towards the body’s sturdier parts.

Passengers should similarly adjust their seats to sit as far back as possible, maintaining a minimum of 10 inches from the dashboard or side airbags. Ensuring that seatbelts are correctly worn is equally important for both drivers and passengers, as seatbelts are a critical component of the airbag system design, intended to keep occupants in the safest position during a crash. Additionally, children under 13 should always ride in the back seat to avoid the direct impact of an airbag. Following these guidelines helps to leverage the full protective capacity of airbags while substantially reducing the possibility of injury from their deployment.

Educate all passengers about the importance of sitting back comfortably against their seat with their feet on the floor, not resting them on the dashboard or windows, which can lead to severe injuries if the airbags deploy.

Keep Up with Vehicle Maintenance

Lastly, keep up with vehicle maintenance, especially regarding the airbag system. Regularly check for recalls concerning your vehicle’s airbag system and have any issues promptly addressed by a professional. By following these precautions, you can maximize the safety benefits of airbags while minimizing the risk of injury.

The Risks of Faulty Airbags

Faulty airbags pose significant risks to vehicle occupants, potentially compromising the safety measures designed to protect them during a crash. When an airbag system fails to deploy or deploys improperly during an accident, the occupants are left vulnerable, facing the full brunt of the impact without the crucial cushioning airbags provide. Faulty deployment can also mean an airbag inflating too late or too quickly, either of which can increase the severity of injuries. In addition to deployment issues, faulty airbags may deploy spontaneously without any impact, causing surprise and potentially resulting in an accident. The risks associated with faulty airbags emphasize the importance of regular vehicle maintenance and adherence to manufacturer recalls to address any identified airbag system defects. Vehicle owners should promptly respond to recall notices and ensure their vehicle’s airbag system is inspected and, if necessary, repaired by a qualified technician to maintain safety standards and protect all occupants.

PhillyLaw is Committed to Recovering Compensation for All Injuries in a Car Accident, Even Airbag Injuries

If you or a loved one has suffered an airbag injury, know that you’re not alone. The dedicated team at PhillyLaw is well-versed in the complexities surrounding airbag-related injuries and the nuances of personal injury law. Leveraging years of experience, our car accident lawyers will work tirelessly to help you recover the compensation you deserve. With a compassionate approach and a keen understanding of the legal landscape, PhillyLaw stands ready to advocate on your behalf, navigating the challenging path towards recovery and justice. Call today for a free consultation.