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.