Airbags and seatbelts save thousands of lives every year. Unfortunately, these life-saving devices can also cause severe injuries, even when they work correctly. When they malfunction, the results are often catastrophic for drivers and passengers.
If you were injured by an airbag or seatbelt in a West Virginia car accident, Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, can help you recover the full and fair compensation you deserve. Our West Virginia personal injury lawyers are ready to evaluate your case, gather the necessary evidence to substantiate your claim, handle negotiations with the at-fault party, and take your case to court if necessary. While you focus on healing from your injuries, we are ready to handle your case from start to finish. Call us today to get started with a free case review.
How Do Airbags and Seatbelts Cause Injuries?
Reading a post about how airbags and seatbelts can injure you may seem counterintuitive. After all, these devices are designed to protect drivers and passengers, not injure them. However, sometimes poor design or installation causes them to malfunction, and even when they work correctly, airbags and seatbelts do not protect you from every possible danger.
Common causes of airbag injuries in car accidents include:
- Airbags deploying too soon or too late in a crash
- Airbags deploying in unnecessary situations
- Airbags failing to deploy when needed
- Airbags exploding when they deploy
- Airbags crushing drivers or passengers, especially young children sitting in the passenger seat
- Drivers or passengers sustaining burns from a hot, inflated airbag
Common causes of seatbelt injuries in a car accident include:
- Seatbelt placed too low or high on the torso
- Seatbelt releases and inertial unlatching
- False latching
- Seat belt retractor failure
- Seatbelt failures or malfunctions
- Incorrectly installed seatbelts
Types of Airbag and Seatbelt Injuries
Some common examples of airbag injuries in car accidents include:
- Hearing loss – Airbags produce a loud bang when deployed, which can damage a driver’s or passenger’s hearing due to their proximity to the airbag.
- Burns – Airbags rely on explosive propellants to deploy quickly in a crash. Unfortunately, the chemicals used to deploy an airbag can leave the bag hot to the touch, inflicting burns on drivers and their passengers.
- Internal injuries – When an airbag deploys on a driver or passenger, the force can be significant enough to cause internal bleeding and organ damage. Children and adults with small frames are more likely to sustain internal injuries from hitting an airbag.
- Broken bones – Again, airbags deploy very forcefully, which can leave riders with broken arms, wrists, ribs, and more.
- Lacerations and puncture wounds – If a defective airbag explodes when deployed, it can send razor-sharp shrapnel flying through the vehicle, causing severe injuries if it hits anyone in the car.
- Scarring and disfigurement – Burns from a hot airbag surface, bits of shrapnel from an exploding airbag, and other hazards can leave disfiguring scars after a car accident.
- Traumatic brain injuries – It is usually safer for a driver or passenger to hit an airbag in a crash than a hard surface in the car’s interior. However, the impact of an airbag can still be enough to cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can cause paralysis, memory loss, loss of movement or coordination, and changes in the injured party’s personality.
Most airbag injuries are caused by the blunt force released when they deploy toward riders. By contrast, seatbelt injuries are normally caused when drivers are thrust forward against the belt holding them back. This can also lead to severe injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries – If a seatbelt breaks or malfunctions in a crash, the person restrained can be thrust against the dashboard or thrown through the windshield. The blunt impact can lead to a TBI.
- External injuries to the head and face – Without a working seatbelt to restrain them, a driver or passenger involved in a crash is more likely to hit their head or face on the car’s interior, leading to potentially disfiguring injuries.
- Broken ribs or other bones – Even when seatbelts work correctly, they put intense pressure on drivers’ and passengers’ bodies when they lurch forward and the belt locks. This pressure is sometimes enough to break someone’s ribs or other bones.
- Neck and back injuries – When a seatbelt activates in a crash, a driver or passenger may suddenly stop after being thrown forward, which can cause whiplash and other neck and back injuries.
Children’s Injuries from Airbags and Seatbelts
Young children are especially vulnerable because their bodies aren’t strong enough to withstand the injuries that an airbag or seatbelt can inflict. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says parents should never put a rear-facing car seat in the passenger seat. The NHTSA also recommends specific restraint systems to use for children in cars depending on their age and weight.
Who May Be Liable for Injuries Caused by Airbags and Seatbelts?
Many parties could be liable for an airbag or seatbelt injury depending on how a crash occurs, whether the seatbelt/airbag worked correctly, and other factors. Potentially responsible parties include:
- Another driver who caused a crash in which you sustained an airbag or seatbelt injury
- The company that designed or manufactured a defective airbag or seatbelt
- The company that incorrectly installed an airbag or seatbelt in your vehicle
Legal Options for Victims of Airbag and Seatbelt Injury
Typically, an airbag or seatbelt injury victim from a crash caused by another driver can file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If the airbag or seatbelt was defective or malfunctioned, you might also have a products liability case against the company that designed or manufactured the seatbelt or airbag. An airbag/seatbelt injury lawyer can review your case and tell you more about your potential legal options.