Airbags are an important safety feature in any vehicle. They have been shown to prevent fatality and reduce injury in most crashes. However, they also can cause or contribute to an injury as well. In some cases an airbag can fail to deploy or cause injury due to a defect in the design or manufacture process. Improper, insufficient, or lack of instruction or warning regarding airbag use, can also cause injury. In other cases, an airbag deploys properly, but causes more harm than good.
Airbag Injury cases generally fall into one of two categories—one being a product liability claim against an automaker, airbag manufacturer, distributor, or other entity—the other being an negligence claim against an individual (or entity) responsible for causing an accident, injury, or fatality. The Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. represent clients in both types of air-bag related personal injury claims.
Nowadays, most new vehicles come standard equipped with airbags. While airbags have increased overall collision safety, this feature has also come with numerous problems. Perhaps the most concerning issue extending from increased use of these devices, has been the astounding amount of safety recalls associated with manufacturing and design defects. In fact, 2014 marked a record year for airbag-related recalls, including the infamous Takata recall that affected about 17 million vehicles, according to consumer reports, nearly half of which were vehicles located in the U.S.
A number of potential issues have been identified as the source of either preventing airbags from deploying altogether, or causing them to deploy in an improper or unsafe manner. Just a few include: Airbag inflator defects that cause airbag explosions; Electrical problems than can disable airbags; Faulty sensors that fail to detect passenger occupancy; and Wiring issues that can lead to unnecessary or unexpected deployment.
Consumers have a right to rely on the safety features in their vehicles. When a crash occurs and an airbag malfunctions, the consequences can be devastating. In defective airbag cases, the most beneficial evidence is often the car itself. Ensuring that this evidence is properly preserved is critical, particularly if the vehicle involved is declared a total loss. By securing a lawyer as soon as possible following the crash, you can prevent important evidence from being lost or destroyed.
Airbag Instruction/Warning Issues.
Failure to warn of dangers in the use of airbags can also form the basis for an injury claim against an automaker. The duty to warn consumers requires that automakers exercise reasonable care in providing both adequate instructions for safe use, as well as warning as to dangers inherent in improper use. When this duty is breached, and as a result, a victim is injured or killed, the manufacturer can be held liable for harm to the victim proximately caused by the breach.
Prior cases involving warning/instruction failures have included issues of: Seat positioning for front occupants; Car-seat placement; Use of safety restraints; Positioning small children based upon airbag proximity; Placing objects over airbags; Sitting, leaning, or sitting unnecessarily close to airbags; and Using deactivation switches, to name a few.
Airbag-use warnings and instructions are set forth within owner manuals and in-car warnings. In-car airbag warning labels are mandated by state in federal regulations. Owner’s manuals, however, give manufacturers the flexibility to choose the language that will most effectively relay airbag-use-related information that is specifically tailored to individual vehicles. Assessing liability in this type of case can be highly complex, because what may be sufficient warning (or instruction) to one, may not be to another. An experienced injury attorney can evaluate the vehicle owners’ manual and in-car warnings specific to the vehicle involved in a crash, and explain whether you may have a valid claim.
Airbag Injury unrelated to defect.
Airbags can also cause harm even when they deploy properly. Facial trauma, eye injuries, head and neck injuries, bone fractures, burns, skin irritation, chemical inhalation injury, harm to an unborn fetus, and even fatality—these are all examples of harm that can occur as a result of crash in which an airbag properly deploys. These types of claims vary from product liability actions in which the victim alleges that the harm caused was due to the actions (or inaction) of an auto manufacturer, part supplier, or distributor. Here, the victim of a car accident seeks damages for harm sustained due to the negligent, reckless, or unlawful actions of some other person or entity, typically another motorist.
In some cases, insurance companies may attempt to limit liability by asserting that a victim’s airbag-related injuries were caused or enhanced due to their own actions, such as lack of seat-belt use; positioning a child near an airbag; sitting too close to or leaning on an airbag. Defense tactics of this nature are often improper, and depending on the facts of your particular case, can be successfully rebutted by a skilled attorney.
Being injured in a car crash can be an unnerving experience in and of itself. Our experienced attorneys know what you are going through, and want to alleviate your concerns. Contact the Chicago Injury Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, or send us a message online.