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Airbags in Motor Vehicles Can Lead to Personal Injuries

By: Attorney Thomas R. Smith

Airbags in private passenger motor vehicles have saved thousands of lives, and lessened the severity of personal injuries in automobile collisions since the 1980s. All passenger vehicles are required to have dual front airbags due to a federal mandate in 1998.

Airbags, known as “passenger restraint systems”, are composed of three parts. The bag itself, made of thin nylon, is folded in the steering wheel, the dashboard, or in the door. A sensor is the device that tells the system when the bag should inflate, usually when a collision force equals or exceeds the same force generated when running into a brick wall at 10-15 miles per hour. Finally, the airbag inflation systems reacts when prompted by the sensor, sets off a combination of gases to produce nitrogen gas, which inflates the bag. This entire process happens in a matter of seconds.

Despite their safety advantages, airbags themselves can cause serious personal injuries. If the driver or passenger is too close to the bag, it can cause significant injury upon its deployment. The same is true if the passenger is too small, which is why young children or infants should never be seated in close proximity to an airbag. Occupants with certain medical conditions, such as previous neck or back surgery, may be at greater risk for an aggravation of those injuries when an airbag is engaged. Finally, airbags that are manufactured or designed in an unsafe manner will not operate as intended, if at all, exposing drivers or passengers to an unreasonable risk of harm.

Recently, 8 million motor vehicles, made by 10 different automakers, have been recalled, due to defective airbags that can throw metal fragments upon inflation, causing significant personal injuries. Making matters worse, the manufacturer of the airbag involved, does not have enough replacements, and many automakers are disengaging the passenger restraint system until a safer replacement is found.

If you have suffered personal injuries because of a defective airbag, you should contact an attorney experienced in handling product defect cases.

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