When we think of the main safety devices installed in vehicles which are designed for driver and passenger protection, the first thing which comes to many peoples’ minds is the airbag. Airbags are primarily used as a safety device for drivers and passengers. When a crash or any sort of notable impact occurs, there are certain sensors within vehicles which register these events. These sensors correspond directly with airbags installed in the vehicle which are contained in the airbag electronic controller unit, also known as the “ECU.”
Any new car you buy is required to be equipped with airbags according to federal regulations. But, airbags haven’t been around all that long. Airbags were first introduced in the 1970s with limited success and broad based commercial use of airbags didn’t start in the market until the late 1980s and early 1990s. Therefore, relatively speaking, airbags are somewhat modern technology.
TYPES OF AIRBAGS
The type of airbag in a car will usually depend on the manufacturer and not all airbags are the same nor do they provide the same safety benefits. As a general rule, most cars contain 6 airbags which are located in the front and side of the car. Some of the other airbag variations are listed below:
- Pedestrian Airbag
This is an airbag which actually deploys outside of the vehicle and is designed not to protect the vehicle occupant but any pedestrian the vehicle may come into contact with. Volvo and Land Rover were two of the first manufacturers to use this type of airbag technology.
- Seat Belt Airbag
This is an airbag which deploys from within the seat belt itself and is designed to protect from a seat belt restraint injury or burn in high speed collisions. The main purpose of this airbag is to better distribute the blunt force impact across the body of the seat belt wearer. Some auto manufacturers who use this technology are Lexus, Ford and Mercedes. Interestingly, this type of seat belt is also being used in certain airplanes. Cessna was the first to introduce this type of airbag aboard its aircraft and studies suggest the airbag likely mitigated injuries and did not interfere with safety rescue attempts.
- Rear Curtain Airbag
This airbag was first put into use by Toyota and was designed to protect the heads of passengers in the back seat following a rear-end collision. This airbag has only been on the market for approximately 10 years.
- Knee Airbag
These airbags are found underneath the steering wheel and front glove box. They made their way from the European market to the US and are designed to protect the knees and legs of drivers and front seat passengers. While many people sustain knee and leg injuries in crashes, the knee airbag injury has also become increasingly common leaving some authorities to question the risk v. benefit of these airbags.
WHY DO SOME AIRBAGS FAIL TO DEPLOY?
As a personal injury attorney at The Cardone Law Firm, I see many people who are involved in serious accidents who are rightfully concerned because their airbags did not deploy. Whether an airbag deploys during a wreck depends on many factors. And it should be noted, air bags are not designed to deploy in all crashes.
- Conditions: the impact may be so small that the computer sensor system realizes the airbag is not necessary to protect the driver and/or occupant.
- Added Protection: if a small child is in the front passenger seat, depending on the weight and height of the child, in some circumstances it is actually better for the airbag not to deploy as the child may sustain more injuries from the deployment f the airbag.
However, when an airbag does not deploy when it was designed to do so, there may be compensation available to the injured person.
- Older Model Vehicles in Previous Crashes: the NHTSA recommends airbags be replaced after a deployment. Airbags are designed to only be used once, that is why they must be replaced after an accident. Many auto insurance companies do not like this rule because if a car is on the borderline of being totaled, airbag replacement can push it over the edge making the car a total loss. In other words, some auto insurance companies may argue your airbag does not need to be replaced because new airbags are expensive to install after a wreck. This should not be tolerated by the insured and not permitted by insurance company repair collision centers as it puts everyone at risk.
- Recalls not addressed: The owner was not properly notified of the recall or the recall was not properly addressed by the manufacturer.
AIRBAGS, LITIGATION AND RECALLS
If you keep up with the news, you know that airbag recalls are frequent. Recently, millions of vehicles equipped with Takata air bags were recalled after studies determined that long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these air bags to explode when deployed. This is especially important in Louisiana because of our climate which is known for high heat and humidity. Thus, the citizens of Louisiana should be very concerned with these recalls because they are at prime risk for injury as these airbag explosions have caused injuries and death.
The NHTSA believes there are approximately 65-70 million defective Takata airbags on the market. Consumer Reports calls the Takata airbag recall “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.” These airbags were installed in car model years 2002-2015. Many people want to know if their car is at risk.
To find out whether your car is included in the Takata airbag recall, or any other recall, simply go to this website and put in your VIN number. This website will walk you through the process from A-Z, including how to locate the VIN number on your vehicle. If your airbag did not deploy in an accident, this should also be reported here. This is so because the complaints are monitored and if multiple similar complaints are received, this could indicate a defect warranting the opening of an investigation.
AIRBAGS, RECALLS AND ALLEGED ABUSE FOR PROFIT
Can you always trust your recall? This is the question attorneys are now asking Mercedes Benz. A recent lawsuit filed in 2018, claims Mercedes issued recall notices for some of its airbags but when customers attempted to schedule a fix, they were routinely told parts were unavailable and the fix would have to wait.
The lawsuit against Mercedes is a class action. The recall pump and fake is especially problematic for individuals who lease vehicles from Mercedes. This is so because Mercedes will just stall the recall until the lease customer gives up and eventually returns the car. Profits over people? Only further discovery through litigation will uncover the truth.
LEGAL RIGHTS OF THOSE INJURED IN A WRECK BY DEFECTIVE AIRBAGS
The players in the auto industry must abide by many regulations. One of the duties of the manufacturer is to ensure the vehicles are safe and to promptly correct any known safety defects and notify the consumers thereof. If you are interested in exploring your legal rights against any auto manufacturer, or if you have a question about your airbag in your Louisiana auto accident, you can call Hannah Salter at the Cardone Law Firm for a free consultation at 504-522-3333.
Article by: Hannah Salter