Airbags are designed to keep you and all passengers safe during a car accident. This is their primary goal, and the benefits of airbags far outweigh any risks they pose. Airbags save lives. That’s why we have them. Front airbags alone have saved more than 50,000 lives in a 30-year period, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
It is possible, however, for airbags to cause injuries in certain circumstances.
If you were injured in a car accident with deployed airbags, call our office for a free consultation at (617) 889-5000. We will review your case for free, explain your legal options, give you advice, and explain how we can help you recover compensation for your medical bills and injuries.
How Airbags Work To Keep You Safe
Airbags are proven to save lives and reduce the severity of car accident injuries. In most cars, airbags are inside the steering wheel and in the passenger side dashboard. Many vehicles also have a variety of side airbags. Frontal and side-impact airbags are designed to deploy in moderate to severe car crashes. Sometimes, airbags may deploy in minor collisions, too.
The way airbags work is that they are connected to and triggered by a crash sensor in your car. When the detector senses a car crash, the sensor triggers an igniter that fills the light fabric of the airbag with gas. This all happens in a fraction of a second, and the airbag deploys with quite a bit of force.
Can Airbags Hurt You?
Yes, airbags can hurt you. Airbags can cause injuries even when they are deployed exactly as they are designed to. Airbags can also cause injuries if they malfunction or if something goes wrong. The injuries can be mild, or more severe.
Airbags are designed to act as a cushion, lessening the overall impact of a car accident. Airbags are especially helpful if you are thrown forward in a car crash because then you are hitting the airbag as a cushion instead of the hard parts of the vehicle, like the steering wheel and dashboard.
Most importantly, remember that airbags are designed to work with seatbelts. Airbags are not a seatbelt replacement. Always buckle up in the car to stay safe and best protect yourself.
Common Airbag Injuries From Airbag Deployment in Car Crashes
As with most car accidents, certain factors make airbag injuries more or less likely or more or less severe. Things that can affect how serious your injuries from an airbag are include how fast the cars involved in the accident were traveling, your size, how you are positioned in the vehicle, and whether your seatbelt is on correctly.
One of the most common airbag injuries is burns. Airbags deploy very quickly, and the chemicals used to inflate the airbag generate a good amount of heat. The heat from the airbag deployment can be hot enough to cause burns to your body. If your bare skin makes contact with the airbag, you are more likely to be burned. The chemicals could also cause an allergic reaction if your bare skin comes into contact with them.
Burns are more common on people’s hands, arms, chest, and face. Any place where the airbag touches bare skin can cause a burn injury.
Over the years, several millions of airbags used by 19 different automakers were recalled due to burn-related issues. Many airbags were exploding when deployed due to long-term exposure to heat and humidity. The exploding airbags led to hundreds of injuries, including burns and even some deaths. You can check airbag recall status here.
Airbags can cause broken bones when they deploy, and it can especially depend on how you are positioned when the airbag goes off. Common broken bones from airbag deployment include broken arms, broken ribs, and broken wrists. Sometimes, even skull fractures happen.
Your face is bound to make some kind of impact with an airbag in a car accident. Airbags can cause injuries to your face, including fractures to your nose, jaw, or cheekbones. The force of the airbag is what can cause face injuries, and injuries to your face are more likely if you sit too close to the steering wheel.
Chest and even heart injuries are possible when an airbag deploys. This is simply due to the strong impact that an airbag will have on someone’s chest in the course of a car crash.
Concussions & Head Injuries
Overall, airbags in cars reduce the risk of serious head injuries. However, the force of the airbag deployment can still lead to concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and other head injuries. If someone is not wearing their seatbelt correctly, it is more likely that they could suffer a head injury from impact with an airbag.
Fractures & Sprains
Fractures and sprains are common injuries from the impact of an airbag in a car crash. An airbag makes a forceful impact when deployed, and the closer you are sitting to the steering wheel or dashboard, the more likely that the airbag could cause fractures and sprains. Fractures and sprains of your skull, ribs, wrists, hands, arms, and fingers are most common.
Eye injuries are also possible when an airbag goes off. The range of eye injuries can vary from mild irritation to more serious injuries such as a scratched cornea.
Bruising & Abrasions
Abrasions and bruising are expected from the force of an airbag. It is more common to get bruised or hurt the skin on your chest and face where the airbag makes contact.
When an airbag deploys, it makes a very loud noise. The sound of an airbag deploying can cause temporary or even permanent hearing damage, including hearing loss.
Injuries to Pregnant Women
Being involved in a car accident while pregnant is always a very traumatic and serious situation. If you are in a car accident while pregnant, always request emergency medical responders at the scene and get checked out at the nearest urgent care or emergency room.
It is possible for deployed airbags to cause an injury to a fetus or baby while a woman is pregnant. The types of injuries vary, but seeing a medical professional is vital after any kind of car accident while pregnant – whether the airbags went off or not.
How Can I Reduce Airbag Injuries in a Car Accident?
Airbags are designed to increase car safety during a car crash. To help limit the possibility of injuries from airbags, there are a few steps you can take.
Ways to Reduce the Likelihood of Airbag Injuries:
Use your Seatbelt
- Always wear your seat belt. Every time you get in the car, no matter how long or short your drive is, buckle up. Wear your seatbelt appropriately. The safest way to drive or ride in a car is to wear your seatbelt correctly, as seatbelts and airbags work together to provide the best possible protection in a crash. Make sure the lap belt is positioned low, across your hips, and that the shoulder belt comes across your chest.
- Having the proper seat position is important to limiting airbag injuries. You should be at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel when in the driver’s seat. Being at least 10 inches away will allow the airbag to deploy effectively. If you are too close to the steering wheel, the airbag is more likely to injure you and may even cause more harm than protection. You should be seated in a comfortable position that allows you to reach the gas and brake pedals well without your body being too close to the steering wheel.
- As a front-seat passenger, you should also ensure you are at least 10 inches away from the dashboard for optimal safety.
- Whether a driver or passenger, sitting upright and avoiding slouching will also allow the airbag to deploy correctly, reducing your risk of getting a head or neck injury.
Steering Wheels: Angle and Hand Positioning
- Tilting your steering wheel a bit downward is safer than having your steering wheel tipped upward. A downward tilt can reduce the risk of injury when an airbag deploys.
- Proper hand positioning on the steering wheel can also help keep you safe. Placing your hands at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock on the steering wheel helps minimize the risk of hand and arm injuries if your airbag deploys.
Place Children in the Backseat
- Children are generally safer in the back seat of the car, especially for children younger than 13.
- If your child is in a car seat, make sure to follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines to install the seat correctly. In Boston, Emergency Medical Services provides free car seat checks and installations. They also offer educational resources to help you select the right seat for your child and to teach you how to buckle your child in properly. Visit this link to learn how to schedule a safety seat appointment for your child. If you live outside of Boston, you can find a list of local car seat fitting and inspection sites in Massachusetts here.
- If your child is in a rear-facing infant seat and must be placed in the front passenger seat – either because there is no backseat or the car seat will not fit in the backseat, the NHTSA reports it is best to turn off the passenger front airbag.
- If your child is under 13 and must sit in the front seat, the NHTSA recommends turning off the passenger frontal airbag.
Don’t Block Your Airbags
- Never put objects or covers on or in front of your airbags. If something is blocking the airbag, it might not deploy appropriately. It could result in a worse injury or overall interfere with the effectiveness of the airbag and make it so that the airbag is less able to protect you as it is designed to.
Follow Manufacturer Guidelines
- Your vehicle’s manufacturer guidelines will recommend proper seat positioning, proper use of seatbelts, and more. See what safety instructions are provided for your specific vehicle and follow them.
- Keeping your car properly maintained is one of the ways to ensure optimum safety while driving, and this includes having your airbag system checked. If your airbag warning light is ever on, you should have it checked by a professional to ensure the airbag system is still functioning and is OK.
I Was Hurt in a Car Accident with Airbags Deployed: What Do I Do Now?
If you were injured in a car accident that involved airbags, you were in what is considered a more severe type of car accident. Because the airbags deployed, that means that the accident happened at a certain speed or situation that was more likely to result in injuries. In addition to being injured in the car accident itself, it’s also possible that you were injured by the airbags being deployed.
Talk to a Massachusetts car accident attorney, such as Spada Law, as soon as possible to learn about your options and how we can help.
After any car accident in Massachusetts, you have rights, and you might be owed damages and monetary compensation for your injuries, damage to your car, and much more. If your accident involved deployed airbags, you may not only have a claim against the other drivers involved, but you may also have a valid legal claim against the airbag manufacturer, the car’s manufacturer, and anyone who inspected, maintained, or replaced your airbags at any time after you bought the car.
If there was a malfunction with the actual airbag itself that caused specific injuries, that part of your claim is a product liability claim. Companies and manufacturers may be strictly liable, meaning responsible, when their products cause any harm or injury due to a defect. Other types of claims can be made against the airbag manufacturers or automakers as well, including negligent design or construction, or warranty-related claims.
Even if you were responsible for the actual car accident, you could still be entitled to receive compensation for any airbag injuries if you can prove that a defect in the airbag caused your injury. Asserting a claim against an auto manufacturer and or the airbag manufacturer is extremely complicated and costly, as experts are necessary to help investigate the origin of the malfunction. For this reason, unless a person was catastrophically injured or killed by an airbag malfunction it is often not economically feasible to pursue a products liability case unless the case involves such tragic consequences. When you hire Spada Law Group, our job when the situation warrants, is to prove exactly how an airbag injured you and to hold the manufacturer and/or automaker accountable.
Contact a Car Accident and Airbag Injury Attorney for a FREE Consultation if You Were Injured in a Boston or Massachusetts Crash
Car accidents are always terrifying and can result in serious injuries — especially if you were injured in a car crash with deployed airbags. Being injured in a car crash is hard enough. You have doctor’s visits, possible surgeries, and physical therapy to manage so you can heal.
But navigating the legal process and dealing with insurance companies doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.
If you or a loved one were injured in a Massachusetts car crash, you have rights and may be able to get compensation for your medical bills, time lost from work, pain and suffering, and more. Our car accident attorneys are here to guide you every step of the way.
Over the last three decades, we’ve helped thousands of people in Massachusetts get the recovery they need after a car accident injury. Recently, Boston Magazine named Attorney Spada one of Boston’s Top Personal Injury Lawyers. As personal injury lawyers, you never pay us a penny until we win your case. We’re here and ready to help.
We have three offices but proudly serve the entire state with the ability to meet with you remotely from the comfort of your own home. Contact us for a free consultation so we can learn more about your pedestrian accident and injuries and see how we can help you get the recovery you deserve after your situation occurs.