It is small comfort to California drivers and passengers maimed by defective airbags — and no comfort at all to those who were killed in airbag explosions — to learn that a leading manufacturer of airbags has finally recalled its defective product.
Minor injuries caused by a deploying airbag are both inevitable and preferable to suffering the serious injuries that airbags protect against, but many vehicle occupants have suffered catastrophic injuries due to defective airbag design. Airbag explosions are only one of the problems associated with defective airbags.
Between 2003 and 2013, at least 144 children and 87 adults died because of airbags. Many more suffered serious injuries. Poorly designed airbag systems have resulted in airbags deploying when they are not needed, leading to unnecessary injury.
Design defects are also a contributing cause of serious injuries to small children after an airbag deploys. If you suffered a serious injury or if your family member was killed by an airbag, an investigation by a personal injury attorney can help you discover whether the airbag manufacturer was at fault.
To put a defective airbag attorney in California to work on your case, call Timothy J. Ryan & Associates at (800) 838-6644.
On May 19, 2015, a Japanese manufacturer of airbags agreed to recall nearly 34 million vehicles containing defective airbags. The recall, representing about one in seven of all four wheel motor vehicles registered in the United States, is the largest in American automotive history.
The recall represents an abrupt about-face for Takata, one of the world’s largest suppliers of airbags. For many years, Takata steadfastly denied that its airbags were defective. The recall was apparently a response to pressure from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, which has recently taken a firmer approach to regulating vehicle safety.
Takata now admits that the propellant used to inflate its airbags degrades over time, causing airbags to expand with excessive force. Takata also admits that it made mistakes in the design and manufacture of its airbags.
Engineers who formerly worked for Takata say that Takata knew about those problems for more than a decade but refused to acknowledge or correct them. Takata was the primary airbag supplier for Honda, but many other vehicle manufacturers are affected by the recall, including Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, and BMW.
Since it will take many years for automakers to install suitable replacement airbags on all vehicles affected by the recall, drivers and passengers will continue to be at risk from airbag explosions.
Fragments from exploding airbags fly through the passenger compartment like shrapnel, wounding occupants and placing them at risk of bleeding to death before help arrives. Victims have suffered permanent disabilities as the result of airbag explosions.
Yet explosions are not the only cause of airbag injuries. A 2014 review of medical literature published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology explained that airbags can cause “hidden” thoracic and cardiac injuries, sometimes resulting in death. When airbags rupture blood vessels or cause other internal injuries, the vehicle occupant may not notice any immediate symptoms.
Particularly in low speed crashes that do not produce significant external injuries, both the vehicle occupant and a physician who examines the occupant may not become aware of internal injuries until it is too late to treat them. Airbags that deflate too rapidly may lead to preventable head and facial injuries. Airbags that inflate too rapidly can cause concussions and a variety of other injuries.
Serious injuries associated with airbag deployment include:
- TMJ injuries
- Eye injuries, including orbital fractures, lens damage, and retinal detachment
- Cervical spine injuries
- Burn injuries caused by the chemicals used to inflate airbags
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Rib fractures
- Dislocated and fractured shoulders
- Abdominal injuries
- Premature rupture of membranes in pregnant women
Each case must be evaluated on its own merits. When an investigation reveals that a defect in the design, manufacture, or installation of an airbag system contributed to a serious injury or death, an injury victim or a deceased victim’s surviving family might be entitled to recover:
Helping California airbag injury victims recover compensation
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future income loss
- Costs of medical appliances (such as a wheelchair)
- Costs of accommodating a disability (such as a wheelchair accessible van)
- The expense of hiring people to provide services that the injury victim can no longer perform (such as cooking and cleaning)
- The expense of a home health aide
- Compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress
- Compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life, including the loss of sexual relations