Your vehicle’s airbag is supposed to be a protective measure.
It deploys as soon as impact occurs, firing out at a speed of up to 200mph to provide an instant cushion that prevents your face from banging into your steering wheel or dashboard. But that speed of deployment can lead to problems. An airbag can injure you, even in cases where it spares you from a more severe injury. Plus, airbags rely on complex mechanisms inside your vehicle. If those go wrong, the airbag may deploy incorrectly, leading to injuries you might not otherwise sustain.
You have the right to file suit if your airbag causes injury. Here, you’ll discover the steps to take to form a claim.
What Types of Airbag Injuries Can Result in Claims?
It’s important to note that not all airbag-related injuries can lead to a claim. If the airbag deploys correctly, i.e., at the moment of impact, it’s fulfilling its protective purpose even if it injures you. The likelihood is that your injury is far less severe than what you’d face if the airbag didn’t deploy at all.
But therein lies the clue to the types of airbag injuries for which you can make claims.
An airbag that fails to deploy is often the victim of a sensor failure, which gives you grounds for a claim. The same applies to airbags that only partially deploy and those that deploy even a fraction of a second later than they should.
A potentially worse problem is an airbag that deploys when it shouldn’t or malfunctions. In a famous recall case of Takata airbags, a small number of airbags exploded upon deployment. In most cases that have similar results, there’s a manufacturing fault at play that opens up the possibility of a claim.
What you receive for that claim depends on the severity of the injuries you receive.
The most common airbag injuries are cuts, bruises, and friction burns resulting from initial impact with the airbag. However, it’s not uncommon to see injuries to wrists and hands, especially given that they’re close to the area from which the bag deploys. Even more serious injuries include eye injuries and fractured ribs, with head trauma even being possible if the bag doesn’t work.
It’s the possibility of these injuries occurring that results in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommending that you sit so you have 10 inches of space between your airbag and breastbone. But even that space may not help you if the airbag malfunctions, creating the grounds for a claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer.
The Steps to Take Following an Airbag Injury
It’s difficult to keep your wits about you in the immediate aftermath of a crash, especially if you’ve suffered from an injury. But if you’re able, these are the steps to follow if you believe an issue with your airbag led to your injury and you want to make a claim.
Step 1 – Assess Your Injuries
Even the most minor collisions can lead to injuries, including abrasions and whiplash. Before doing anything else, take a moment to assess yourself. Do you have any visible injuries? Will any aches or pains you feel restrict your movement? Do your injuries prevent you from getting out of the vehicle?
If your injuries are too severe, you’ll rely on emergency personnel and your legal team to gather evidence for your case. But assuming you’re relatively okay, which is often the case given that 96% of airbag-related injuries are fairly minor, you can move to the next step.
Step 2 – Seek Medical Attention
There are two reasons to seek medical attention after your airbag injury.
The first is obvious – treatment of your injuries.
But the second reason, and the most important when building your case, is that receiving treatment leads to the creation of a medical record. This record documents the severity of your injuries, the treatment you receive, and any costs associated with that treatment. If your case goes to court, you’ll rely on your medical record to provide proof of your injuries, thus substantiating your claim. So, seek treatment even if you have minor injuries. Documentation is evidence, and evidence is key to winning cases.
Step 3 – Preserve Your Vehicle
If you suspect an airbag malfunction led to your injuries, preserving your vehicle in its post-crash state is a priority. Don’t throw anything away. Leave the airbag as it is after deployment, assuming it deployed at all, and keep all parts related to it, such as its crash sensors.
Your vehicle may also contain a data recorder – dubbed a “black box” – that contains data about your vehicle’s response to the crash. Again, preserve this recorder. The data it contains may prove that your airbag didn’t deploy as the manufacturer claimed it would.
To ensure this preservation, have your vehicle towed to a reliable mechanic. Any recommended by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence has the credentials to conduct a thorough post-crash inspection. They’ll also generate a report, which is more evidence you can use to build your case.
Step 4 – Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Finding legal representation is key for several reasons. The most obvious is that a good personal injury attorney understands the ins and outs of the laws of your state, and can show you if the evidence you’ve collected proves your claim for airbag-related injuries.
Attorneys can also direct you in ways to gather more evidence. Plus, they create a structure for your case and can appeal to insurers, manufacturers, and any other relevant parties to achieve a settlement rather than taking your case to trial.
Look for attorneys who have experience specific to airbag-related injuries. They’ll be better versed in researching the standards your vehicle was supposed to maintain, and whether your airbag’s deployment failed to meet those standards.
Make Your Claim for Airbag-Related Injuries
Airbags are essential in modern vehicles because of their ability to prevent serious injuries.
But they’re not perfect.
Airbags that deploy even fractions of a second later than they should, be that due to faulty sensors or issues with the inflation mechanism, leave you open to injuries you wouldn’t otherwise sustain. You have grounds for a compensation claim if you’re a victim of one of these faulty airbags.
Take the four steps highlighted in this article – assess, seek medical attention, retain your vehicle’s components, and speak to a personal injury attorney. Combined, those steps help you to build your case and get the compensation you deserve for the injuries and bills caused by faulty airbags.