Air bags began being installed in vehicles in the United States in 1974. While they are intended to save lives, airbag defects can also cause injury.
Air Bag Anatomy
An airbag might cause injury if it inflates too quickly, if it is too large, if it fails to use tethers (internal straps that prevent the airbag from pushing too far back in the passenger compartment), or if its folding pattern is dangerous.
Sensors are the brains of the airbag system. They detect the collision and tell the airbag whether, when, and how forcefully to fire. But their placement and calibration are problematic, sometimes causing airbags to fail to deploy when they should, to deploy late (allowing occupants to get too close to the airbag), and to deploy in minor collisions when they should not deploy at all. Consequently, sensor system defects are common in airbag cases.
Related to the sensor system are deployment thresholds. If the manufacturer sets the thresholds too low, airbags deploy in relatively minor collisions.
Every airbag system has “must‑fire,” “may‑fire,” and “no‑fire” thresholds. For example, both Ford and Chrysler in the 1990s designed their vehicles so that airbags must fire in any collision with a barrier equivalent velocity (BEV) of 14 mph. They specified that the airbag must not fire in any collision with a BEV of 8 mph or less and that it may fire in any collision with a BEV greater than 8 mph and less than 14 mph. The may‑fire zone is also known as the gray zone.
Airbag cases generally fit into two categories: deployment and non-deployment cases. Both an airbag that deploys too forcefully and an air bag’s failure to deploy may cause injury. Beyond these broad generalizations, however, case specifics vary greatly.
Side Air Bags
Airbag litigation now increasingly involves claims related to side airbags—typically, either the manufacturer’s failure to install a side airbag system or the failure of the side airbags to deploy properly.
When an airbag fails to perform properly in an accident, we want to know why. To find out, if desirable, we retain experts and or technicians who can examine the airbag in question. In some cases, accident reconstructionists or other experts will also be necessary to determine factors such as the speed at which the vehicle was moving at the time of impact so that we can understand how the airbag should have performed.
If an airbag may have been defective in your accident, please call me so that I can meet with you and learn about your case.
This meeting is free. If you retain us for your case, there will be no fee for our services unless and until we recover damages for you. It is important that a law firm is hired as soon as practical in the case of a defective product – such as an airbag defect – so that critical evidence is not lost or destroyed.