Airbag Safety Defect Attorneys
Injured Because Your Airbag Failed or Deployed with Excessive Force? Our Attorneys File Claims Nationwide.
Airbags provide significant additional protection to drivers and passengers by helping to limit crash forces and protecting occupants from contact with the hard surfaces of the vehicle. However, because airbags must deploy at a high rate of speed to be effective, they can also present a safety risk to automobile occupants. If you believe your accident was caused by a defective airbag, feel free to contact our auto defect lawyers and have our team assess your case.
Contact our defective airbag attorneys at (888) 711-5947 today for a free case evaluation.
Safe Airbags Save Lives
Since airbags became a standard for vehicle safety in the mid-1990s, they have proven to be effective at improving the safety of vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted multiple studies verifying these devices’ effectiveness:
A 2007 study based on field investigations of crash data concluded that
airbags saved more than 243,000 lives through mid-2007. According to NHTSA’s
analysis, the combined use of seatbelts and airbags reduces the risk of
serious head injuries for occupants involved in collisions by 83 percent.
- A 2009 NHTSA study concluded that 82 percent of the people whose lives were saved by airbags were drivers, and 18 percent were front-seat passengers. Forty percent were belted in and 60 percent were unbelted at the time of the crash.
- NHTSA has also found that side airbags with head protection reduce the mortality rate for drivers in driver-side crashes by 37 percent. For SUV drivers, the decrease in risk is 52 percent. Side airbags designed to protect only the torso reduce fatality risk by 26 percent for car drivers and by 30 percent for SUV drivers.
Despite these conclusive studies, there remains a misconception among some that airbags are not needed if a driver and passenger(s) wear seatbelts. This is not correct. Airbags and lap and shoulder belts work together as a restraint system. Restrained drivers and passengers who travel in a vehicle equipped with airbags are far more likely to survive a crash than belted individuals who travel in a car without airbags.
The Dangers of Defective Airbags
While airbag technologies have saved thousands of lives, they present a risk of death or injury to vehicle drivers and passengers when defective.
Identifying the Types of Airbags in Your Vehicle
The most common types of airbags today are frontal and side airbags:
- Frontal: Frontal airbags are installed inside the steering wheel on the driver’s side and in the instrument console on the passenger side. This was the first type of airbag technology and began appearing in vehicles in the early-to-mid 1990s.
- Side: Different manufacturers place side airbags in different locations. Most side airbags and side-curtain airbags are positioned to protect the occupant’s head and upper body. Side airbags are commonly mounted in the seat, support column, or door frame. It is important to verify that your vehicle has head and torso side airbags and that the vehicle is equipped with rollover pre-tensioners that trigger side airbags to deploy in a rollover accident.
The best way to identify the types of airbags installed in your vehicle or a vehicle you are considering for purchase is to examine the owner’s manual and inspect the auto’s interior. If you have additional questions about the airbags and the protection they are intended to provide, contact the vehicle manufacturer. You might also consider reading a vehicle’s safety reviews in publications such as Car and Driver and Consumer Reports.
Dangerous Airbag Defects
Airbags that are intended to improve driver and passenger safety can cause injuries when there are errors in their deployment. These faults may follow any number of patterns. Here are some of the most common airbag defects:
- Failure to deploy such as that seen in a 2010 study that used National Automotive Sampling System/Crashworthiness Data System data of frontal collisions that necessitated damaged cars be towed away found that frontal airbags (airbags located in the front passenger compartment) failed to deploy in 1-2% of frontal crashes.
- Unexpected deployment due to short circuits in the airbag control module caused by fluid leaks or other malfunctions.
- Airbag debris that strikes and injures occupants upon deployment.
- Cuts or tears in the airbag that prevent the airbag from properly deploying.
- Airbags that deploy with excessive force beyond manufacturer or design specifications, causing unnecessary injuries to passengers. This flaw was behind mass recalls for Takata airbags.
- Airbags that are not the necessary size to protect vehicle occupants from crash forces.
Too often, these defects cause serious injuries to vehicle occupants. We have helped clients with:
- Eye injuries from dust and/or debris that shot out at the driver or passenger upon airbag deployment.
- Facial or neck injuries caused by an excessively forceful deployment or an airbag’s failure to properly employ.
- Injuries to the abdominal or chest region and/or upper extremities from the excessive force of a side airbag deployment.
- Serious head and neck injuries due to a side airbag’s failure to deploy. In these situations, an occupant might strike the side frame of the vehicle or be ejected from the vehicle in the event of a rollover.
Some automobile and airbag manufacturers continue to face significant challenges in designing and manufacturing safe, durable, and reliable airbags that serve their intended purpose without creating separate safety threats to the consumer. Many have been forced to recall hundreds of thousands of cars that had faulty airbags.
In September 2020,
Volkswagen recalled model-year 2020 Passat sedans (around 1,800 vehicles) for a potential
error in the passenger frontal airbag folding job that could affect its
- In September 2020, around 190,000 vehicles were recalled due to airbag crash sensors that could be damaged. The recall affects 2018 Volkswagen Atlas vehicles and 2019 Jeep Cherokee SUVs. The sensor’s faulty connections could delay airbag deployment in a frontal crash or prevent airbags from deploying in a low-speed crash.
- In August 2020, Ford recalled its 2020 Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs for potentially faulty securing of the side airbag and seatback module. This could affect the trajectory of the airbag or prevent it from positioning correctly in case of a crash.
- In August 2020, 800 model-year 2020 cars made by Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC were recalled for a potential flaw in the roof-rail airbag inflator.
- In July 2020, around 70 Ford Escape SUVs and Transit vans (model year 2020) were recalled due to the risk that the curtain airbag may not inflate properly.
- In July 2020, Lincoln recalled 19,300 MKX and Nautilus SUVs, model years 2016-2020, due to the potential for seat harness wiring abrasion. This damage could cause the airbag system to malfunction.
- In July 2020, around 925,500 vehicles were recalled by Dodge and Chrysler. The recall included model year 2007-2011 Nitro SUVs; 2008-2010 Town and Country minivans, and 2008-2010 Grand Caravan minivans. These vehicles were manufactured using airbag clips that could loosen over time, becoming projectiles when drivers-side airbags deploy.
- In May 2020, Audi recalled around 3,200 Q3 SUVs (model year 2019) and A6 sedans, A6 Allroad wagons, and A7 hatchbacks (model year 2020) for a potential defect in which the passenger airbag could break off small pieces of plastic from the tear seam during deployment. These projectiles could cause injury.
- In May 2020, 1,300 Hyundai Genesis Coupes, model year 2016, were recalled because the driver-side frontal airbag may not be fully secured. The airbag could detach from the steering wheel, increasing the risk of injury.
- In April 2020, Mercedes-Benz GLE350 and 450 SUVs released in 2020 and equipped with electronically adjustable second-row seats were recalled for repairs to the under-seat wiring harness in the second row. Damage to the wires could result in the rear side airbags failing to deploy.
- In April 2020, Ford recalled around 1,300 Expedition SUVs (model year 2020) for a front passenger seat belt buckle malfunction that could result in faulty readings of the passenger’s weight and size. This could turn off the passenger airbags incorrectly.
- In March 2020, BMW recalled around 3,300 model-year 2020 X3, X3M, X4, and X4M SUVs along with its 3 Series sedans and 8 Series coupes and convertibles for a seat belt buckle sensor failure. The sensor may fail to identify when a passenger is belted in, meaning airbags and seat belt pretensioners may deploy improperly.
- In February 2020, Audi recalled its model year 2019 Q7 SUVs for side airbags that may fail to inflate properly in a crash.
- In January 2020, Pontiac Vibe hatchbacks (model years 2003-2004) were recalled due to a replacement airbag that might not unfold properly when deployed, resulting in underinflation.
- In January 2020, Toyota recalled 2.9 million vehicles: model-year 2009-2011 Corollas, model-year 2011-2013 Matrix hatchbacks, model-year 2012-2018 Avalon sedans, and model year 2013-2018 Avalon Hybrid sedans for potentially malfunctioning airbag electronic control units. A faulty control unit could prevent airbag deployment.
- In 2019 and 2020, multiple automakers published recalls for models that were previously affected by the Takata recalls. The original fix performed on most cars was temporary, meant to last until permanent parts were ready. Owners of Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, Honda, Nissan, Infiniti, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Saab, BMW, Toyota, Scion, and Lexus cars may have already received a recall notice.
- In December 2019, Mercedes recalled around 130 vehicles including model year 2018-2018 CLA250 and model year 2017-2018 AMG CLA45 sedans for errors in the front passenger occupant classification system that could prevent proper airbag deployment. The company also recalled around 100 model year 2019 E53, E63, and E63 S wagons that may have received the wrong drivers-side airbag and software version.
- In December 2019, 3,300 Dodge Viper sports cars (model years 2005-2006) were recalled due to a faulty restraint control module that might result in unexpected deployment of airbags and/or seat belt pretensioners.
- In November 2019, Takata issued a new recall for around 1,400,000 airbags used in vehicles between 1995 and 2000 that may cause airbags to over- or under-inflate. The recall affects Toyota, BMW, Audi, Acura, Honda, and Mitsubishi vehicles.
- In October 2019, Subaru recalled 366,200 Forester SUVs, model years 2015-2018, for a faulty electrical connection that could deactivate the front-passenger airbag when the seat is occupied.
- In October 2019, Toyota issued a recall for 3,100 model-year 2020 Highlanders and Highlander Hybrids. The seat trim could prevent side airbags from deploying properly.
- In October 2019, Mercedes-Benz recalled approximately 2,200 vehicles that may have contained airbags that were incorrectly bolted down. The recall included model year 2019-2020 A220 sedans, model year 2020 CLA250 coupes, and model year 2020 GLC300 SUVs, and warned of improper airbag deployment in case of a crash.
- In August 2019, Toyota recalled 135,000 Corollas (model years 2003-2008)and Matrix hatchbacks (model years 2005-2008) for potential damage to the front passenger airbag that could prevent proper inflation. The company also recalled around 700 Camry sedans (model year 2019) for incorrectly calibrated passenger classification systems that could prevent proper airbag deployment.
- In August 2019, Mercedes-Benz recalled 460 of its model year 2018-2019 cars including the SL65, SL63, and SL450 and SL550 coupes and convertibles. The affected models had front passenger airbags that could suffer seam tear during deployment.
- In August 2019, a recall for 144,100 Audis including S4 sedans; A5 cabriolets, Sportsbacks, and coupes; S5 cabriolets, Sportsbacks, and coupes; and A4 sedans and Allroad wagons from model years 2017 and 2018 was issued. The affected cars could have their passenger airbags disabled due to a software bug, causing it to not inflate in the event of a crash.
- In July 2019, Volkswagen Tiguan SUVs and CC sedans from model years 2015 and 2016 were recalled for a defective capacitor in the airbag control unit that could deactivate airbags or cause them to deploy unexpectedly. The recall affected around 27,800 vehicles.
- In July 2019, Porsche recalled around 7,500 cars from model years 2016 and 2017 for a defect in the airbag power supply that could result in inadvertent deployment or airbag deactivation. Maserati also recalled around 740 GranTurismo coupes (model years 2015-2018) and convertibles (model years 2016-2018) for the same issue.
- In July 2019, Jeep recalled 750 of its model year 2019 Renegade SUVs for a calibration error in the occupant restraint controller. The issue could cause airbags to deploy incorrectly during an accident.
- In June 2019, Audi recalled 138,000 cars including model year 2015-2018 S3 sedans; model year 2015-2019 A3 sedans and cabriolets; model year 2016-2018 A3 e-tron plug-in hybrids; and model year 2017-2019 R3 sedans for a software flaw that could deactivate the passenger airbag despite the seat having an adult occupant.
- In June 2019, Ford recalled around 296,000 Ram 1500 pickup trucks from model years 2019-2020 for a software malfunction. The flash memory or the occupant restraint controller could become corrupted, disabling airbags and seat belt pretensioners.
- In June 2019, Ferrari recalled 900 vehicles from model years 2015-2018 for malfunctioning airbag control units.
- In June 2019, BMW recalled around 5,100 vehicles including model year 2019-2020 230i, M240i, M2 Competition, 430i, 440i, and M4 coupes along with model year 2018 330i xDrive Sports Wagons. These vehicles may have had improperly folded and assembled knee airbags on both the driver and passenger sides. Separately, it recalled 2019 X7 SUVs for improperly aligned head airbags that could be impaired during deployment.
- In June 2019, Mazda published a recall for 7,800 CX-9 SUVs (model year 2018) for a faulty wiring harness that could disable the passenger frontal airbag, among other systems.
- In June 2019, Suzuki recalled its model year 2010-2013 Kizashi sedans for an occupant classification error that could misidentify a passenger as a child instead of an adult and prevent deployment of the front passenger airbag.
- In May 2019, around 26,000 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 sedans from model years 2017-2018 were recalled for a faulty sensor in the supplemental restraint system that could disable airbags after mistakenly identifying normal vibrations as a malfunction.
- In May 2018, Honda CR-V SUVs from the 2019 model year were recalled for potential damage to the steering wheel harness that might disable the airbag or cause it to deploy unexpectedly.
- In May 2019, Acura and Honda recalled around 19,000 vehicles from model years 2006-2015 for an incorrectly installed inflator for the passenger-side frontal airbag.
- In April 2019, Toyota Yaris model year 2015-2017 vehicles were recalled for possible corrosion risk of the wire harness for its side airbag sensor. This recall affected around 43,200 cars and could cause side and curtain shield airbags for the front seats to not deploy or deploy improperly. Separately, the company recalled around 270 model year 2019 Sienna minivans that may have been welded incorrectly, causing airbag sensor readings for the front passenger side seat to be incorrect.
- In April 2019, Subaru recalled a range of Forester SUVs, Impreza sedans, Legacy sedans, Outback wagons, Tribeca SUVs, and WRX sedans for an ignition switch issue that could result in airbags not deploying, among other hazards.
- In April 2019, around 560 Lexus ES 350 and 300h sedans from model year 2019 were recalled for knee airbags that were improperly fastened on the driver’s side.
- In February 2019, Kia recalled around 94,000 Sedona minivans, model years 2015-2018, for a wiring harness that was prone to breakage when the front passenger seat was occupied. A broken wiring harness would result in a failure of the passenger detection system to identify a child in the front seat and prevent airbag deployment.
- In February 2019, Mercedes-AMG recalled model year 2018-2019 GLC63, GLC63 coupe, and GLC63S sedans for potential delays in airbag deployment when front-seat passengers were unbelted.
- In June 2018, Kia recalled 507,600 Forte, Forte Koup, Optima, Optima Hybrid, and Sedona vehicles (model years 2010-2013) for a short circuit that could prevent frontal airbags and seat belt pretensioners from deploying in the event of a crash.
- Since 2014, Takata has recalled tens of millions of airbags used by 19 different automakers. Most were used in cars from model years 2002 through 2015.
- In October 2012, Ford recalled more than 154,000 Fiestas (model year 2009-2012) due to an airbag defect that prevented the side airbag from inflating when there was not an occupant in the passenger seat. The defect endangered occupants in the back seat.
- In July 2012, Hyundai announced it was recalling more than 22,500 Sonatas due to water leakage into the side airbag which could cause unexpected deployment.
- In August 2011, Chrysler recalled 376,000 Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, model year 2008, for airbag defects caused by leaks in the vehicle air conditioner. Water could seep into the module that controlled the airbags, which Chrysler worried could cause unexpected deployment.
- In 2010, Honda recalled more than 900,000 vehicles worldwide due to recurring problems with the driver’s side airbag building up too much internal pressure. This caused some airbags to rupture and scatter fragments.
In late 2012, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) announced an investigation into widespread counterfeiting of replacement airbags which were sold online to unwitting consumers and auto repair and service stores. In a test crash conducted by Honda, one of these counterfeit airbags exploded, sending fire and debris from the steering wheel toward the vehicle occupants. The government announced that approximately 250,000 vehicles may have been affected.
If you had your vehicle’s airbag replaced by a non-dealer repair shop or replaced the airbag yourself via an online purchase, please visit your local authorized car dealer to have your airbag inspected and certified.
The Future of Airbag Technologies
According to the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, future airbags will likely possess a number of innovations to improve safety and further limit injuries to occupants from airbag deployments. Some of the recent innovations in airbag technology include:
- Technology to detect rear-facing child seats and automatically switch off passenger airbags
- Deployment programmed into phases based on crash severity, meaning less-severe crashes will result in a softer airbag deployment to reduce the likelihood of occupant injuries
- Sensors to detect the positioning of an occupant and adjust bag deployment to protect them based on their position in the seat
- An inflatable safety belt designed to reduce rear-seat injuries by dispersing collision forces across the occupant’s body
- Rear window curtain airbags to protect occupants’ from breaking glass and inward movement of the vehicle structure.
Airbag Safety Tips for Drivers
For adult vehicle occupants, it isn’t your size, age, or gender that determines your risk for airbag injuries. Your position in relation to an airbag is most important in identifying adult airbag injury risk factors. Most adults can greatly limit the risk by buckling up. Short and elderly drivers are less vulnerable to airbag injuries if they use seat belts and sit at least 10 inches from the steering wheel. NHTSA studies show that most airbag deaths occur when people are not belted in or the occupant is positioned too close to an airbag.
The following are a series of NHTSA safety tips to maximize the benefit of airbag and seatbelt safety restraint systems:
- Drivers should always position themselves to be as far away from the steering wheel as possible, but never less than 10 inches;
- Always wear seatbelts positioned low and snug across the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest;
- Always have your airbags inspected, even after a minor accident, to ensure they are in safe and working condition;
- Always have your airbags replaced after they are deployed in a collision; and
- Have children sit in the back seat until they are at least 12 years of age and use a size- and age-appropriate car seat and/or restraint system.
Should I Ever Turn Off My Car’s Airbag?
NHTSA recommends that you not turn off the airbag except under very limited circumstances. People who may benefit from turning off an airbag are:
- Drivers who are unable to adjust their position to be at least 10 inches from the steering wheel;
- Individuals with a medical condition that would place them at substantial risk in an accident; and
- Parents of children under 12 who are required to ride in the front seat.
What Should I Do If I Am Injured by an Airbag?
If you or a loved one was injured by an airbag in a crash or non-crash incident, make sure to immediately seek medical attention. Then, make sure that the vehicle is preserved. Communicate in writing with your insurer or any other business or organization regarding the location and security of the vehicle and obtain written verification that the vehicle will not be modified, destroyed, sold, or otherwise disposed of as it may constitute evidence in a legal matter. If the vehicle is destroyed, your legal options may be severely limited due to the inability to fully investigate the nature of the product defect.
Contact an auto product liability attorney at The Gilbert Law Group® for a free consultation to discuss your airbag defect case. Call us at (888) 711-5947. We serve clients nationwide.
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Record Trial Court Verdict - Products Case $52,000,000
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The Gilbert Law Group® has years of experience in successfully litigating airbag defect cases on behalf of victims who sustained serious injuries. Our in-house engineering department is unsurpassed in technical know-how and innovative investigative techniques that enable us to carefully and efficiently identify product defects and assess your legal options early on in a case.
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