What Happens During an Accidental Airbag Deployment?

An accidental airbag deployment poses a serious risk of personal injury to drivers and passengers, but also to the mechanics and technicians assigned to perform diagnostics and repairs on vehicles. As the name suggests, accidental airbag deployment refers to situations when a vehicle’s airbag unexpectedly deploys without it being triggered by a collision. Though intended to provide increased safety to occupants in the event of a crash, when airbags deploy unexpectedly, the results can lead to injuries or even cause accidents.

To be certain, airbags save lives and prevent serious injuries when it comes to car safety. Airbags are in every vehicle. They are located in the steering wheel, dashboard, and, in some vehicles, their side panels. Made of light nylon fabric and activated upon impact by a crash sensor, airbags are designed to deploy within a fraction of a second when a vehicle’s crash sensor detects a collision. When airbags work as designed, the gas-filled, inflatable bags cushion the impact of a collision and prevent the occupants from slamming into a vehicle’s hard surfaces. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong, airbags do not function as designed, and people get hurt.

Common Accidental Airbag Deployment Injuries

Airbags deploy at speeds ranging between 100-200 mph with a maximum inflation pressure of 5 psi. When not cushioning you from a collision, something hitting you at that speed can lead to serious injuries. That’s because airbags are detonated by a small amount of explosive material, which causes a rapid release of inert gas, like nitrogen or argon, into a thin nylon bag that inflates in milliseconds.

When airbags deploy accidentally, due to the speed of deployment and detonation, chemicals, gases, and metal fragments released can cause fractures or other injuries to the face, chest, wrist, neck, and back. Depending on how hard the airbag strikes you, it may cause internal injuries or severe whiplash injuries, neck and spine injuries, and traumatic brain injuries that leave drivers and passengers immobilized.

The rapid deployment of the airbag may also cause abrasions or burns against the skin or lacerations from metal fragments. Eye injuries can result from chemical irritation or the immense impact of the airbag. Inhalation of gases from the bag can lead to an asthma attack and respiratory irritation or discomfort as well.

Types of Accidental Airbag Deployments

Accidental airbag deployments can and do happen for a variety of reasons.

For example:

  • Vehicle sensor malfunctions can lead to false signals, causing unintended deployments.
  • A short circuit or electronic component failure can send erroneous signals to the airbag control module resulting in an accidental deployment.
  • The control module itself could malfunction and trigger unintended airbag deployments.
  • Environmental factors such as extreme temperature fluctuations have also interfered with the airbag’s electronic system, leading to accidental deployments.
  • Incorrect installment of aftermarket devices or improper maintenance or repairs that involve tampering with an airbag system can create faults that cause accidental deployments.

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects and poorly designed systems are also major problems that are subject to airbag recalls. Safety defects may cause some airbags to explode and result in serious injury or death. Unintended airbag deployments resulted in tens of millions of airbag recalls when it was discovered that long-term exposure to heat and humidity could cause them to explode during deployment. To date, nearly 30 deaths have occurred and over 400 people have been seriously injured.

Airbags are installed in vehicles to enhance the safety of occupants and prevent serious injuries. If an airbag malfunctions and causes serious harm, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries by filing a product liability claim. Companies are liable when their products cause harm because of a design flaw or defect. 

You Have a Right to Seek Compensation

Those seriously injured in an accidental airbag deployment have every right to seek compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, physical therapy, and any other related damages resulting from the injury.  If you are a victim of an accidental airbag deployment, contact the product liability lawyers at Hardy, Wolf and Downing today for a free consultation. We have been helping injured Mainers get the compensation they deserve for decades.

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