Airbags have been a staple in American cars for almost twenty years. The bags are intended to reduce the force of impact for a body in a collision. The first airbags were placed in the steering wheel, but as the technology developed there are airbags also placed near doors and other points of potential impact a body can have inside a car. Airbags are deployed using a sensor, and when a collision is detected the bag will fill with nitrogen or argon.
There are two main types of issues with airbags that can be the subject of a personal injury suit: when they deploy causing injuries or when they fail to deploy. This is related to the function of the sensor. A malfunctioning sensor will cause the timing for the deployment of the airbag to be off. It may deploy when it is not supposed to, later than it is supposed to, or not at all. When these events happen, significant injuries can occur. Some of the most common are abrasions from the impact of the bag with the body, irritations from the gases released, and bodily injuries like whiplash with the impact with the bag. When the bag fails to deploy, the injuries can be even more serious, with the possibility of death. Recent GM litigation has increasingly found a connection with their faulty ignition switches and the subsequent failure of airbags to deploy in some situations.
For airbag litigation, the main legal theory is one of negligence. An injured person would have to file a claim against the car manufacturer, the airbag manufacturer, someone along the chain of responsibility with the vehicle, all or any combination of the above parties. In a negligence suit, the injured party will need to prove that each defendant fell below the standard of care either in the manufacture or inspection of the vehicle. There may also be a claim of recklessness if the facts support a finding that a defendant disregarded a risk to others. In the GM litigation, the plaintiffs are alleging the company intentionally tried to cover up the defect in the ignition switches.
Damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, future medical costs, and other consequential damages are recognized by the law. Punitive damages may be available in extreme circumstances if a court finds that there was an intentional or reckless disregard for the safety of others.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.