With origins dating back to 1941 and early patents issued in 1953, automotive airbags have long played an important role in vehicle safety around the world. Introduced in American passenger cars in the mid-1970s, these devices have been credited with saving countless lives and are found in all new vehicles that hit the road. Though the value of properly functioning airbags is beyond dispute, defective ones can lead to catastrophic injury and even death. If you are among those who have had the misfortune of encountering a dangerous airbag, and you believe it caused the harm you ultimately sustained, you may be able to secure significant financial compensation. Denver car accident lawyer, Jeremy Rosenthal, is prepared to provide the legal assistance you need in order to secure justice in your case.
In essence, automotive airbags are restraint systems designed to keep drivers and passengers safe within vehicle cabins. Typically comprised of a bag made of flexible fabric, these devices are engineered to inflate in a rapid manner the instant an impact or collision occurs, deflating swiftly thereafter. Airbags offer vehicle occupants a safe, cushioned surface meant to minimize the possibility of serious injury due to excess energy and force during a crash by creating a soft barrier between the individual and the steering wheel and other interior components. There can be no doubt that the automotive airbag represents a true innovation in vehicle safety which has made a remarkable difference in the outcomes of countless collisions.
Common Types of Airbag Defects
When properly designed and installed, airbags provide substantially enhanced safety to those inside vehicles equipped with them. However, there are a number of defects and other problematic circumstances which can lead to serious occupant injuries, sometimes even fatal ones. Common types of defects in airbag systems may include:
- delayed deployment
- failed deployment
- unintended/unnecessary deployment
- untethering of device
- airbags of excessive size
- overly forceful deployment
- missing curtain or side airbags
- failure to properly warn consumers of potential risks
Typical Airbag-Related Injuries
Again, airbags have the capacity to provide life-saving assistance in the event of high-impact crashes, and many accident victims can attest to the value they routinely provide. However, there have been far too many situations in which these devices did not prevent or reduce injury, but in fact caused severe harm to vehicle occupants. Common types of injuries that have been attributed to airbag problems include:
- facial fractures
- hearing loss
- eye trauma
- tooth loss
- spinal injuries/paralysis
- near decapitation
Anyone who is injured in one of the above ways is likely to amass costly medical bills and require ongoing treatment and therapy in order to resume anything close to a normal life. Others may be permanently disabled, and in cases of fatalities, entire families will be left to pick up the pieces and attempt to move forward.
Recommended Airbag Use Precautions
Though it is impossible to eliminate entirely the risk of suffering an injury due to defective or problematic airbags, there are some important tips that all drivers and passengers alike should keep in mind that may lessen the dangers presented. For instance:
- always transport infants in the rear of the vehicle, strapped into an approved safety seat, preferably one that is rear-facing
- always use seat belts
- make sure front seats are moved rearward to the greatest extent possible, leaving no less than 10 inches between the airbag’s cover and the breastbone
- never permit children to ride on other passengers’ laps
- make certain that children up to the age of 12 rides in the rear seats, using age-appropriate restraint systems
- if possible, adjust steering wheels downward to point toward the chest, rather than the head or neck
Takata Airbag Recall
Anyone watching the news in recent months likely has some awareness of the Takata airbag recall effort, though it is important for everyone to grasp the full scope of the warnings that have been issued to consumers across the nation. Vehicles produced by 14 distinct auto manufacturers have been affected by the recall, which is designed to facilitate the replacement of frontal airbags in either the driver’s side, passenger’s side, or sometimes even both. The Takata airbag initiative has been referred to as being the largest and most complex such recall in the history of the United States, and its breadth truly is massive.
The recall covers numerous makes and models from the years 2002 through 2015. Some of the airbags falling under the recall umbrella have the potential to deploy in a dangerously explosive manner that could cause serious injury or death. It has been determined that the problem is largely due to a defectively designed inflator mechanism. This metal cartridge is filled with wafer-style propellants which have been found to prompt explosive reactions. Should the housing of this inflator suffer a rupture during an impact, metal pieces from the airbag system can be shot out through the interior space of the vehicle, possibly resulting in devastating harm to those inside.
Takata’s recall has grown in stages, with its size having tripled from its original scope. At present, over 100 million vehicles across the globe fall under the mandate that airbag inflators of the type described above be replaced prior to 2019. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently working to prioritize the vehicles at highest risk of airbag failure, and will announce rollout schedules for newly-included vehicles in the near future.
Other Recent High Profile Manufacturer Recalls
Though the Takata airbag recall has received the lion’s share of attention in recent months, there have been several other high-profile airbag recalls from U.S. manufacturers which illustrate the fact that the potential for dangerous defects in everyday vehicles is very real. For instance:
- In August of 2011, Chrysler recalled nearly 300,000 minivans for a risk of unnecessary/unanticipated airbag deployment
- In February of 2014, General Motors recalled 1.6 million vehicles for airbags failing to deploy when ignitions were unintentionally switched off during operation
- In June of 2011, over 47,000 Cadillac crossover vehicles were recalled due to a concern that their airbags would fail to deploy when necessary
These and other airbag recalls underscore the proposition that while most everyone relies on restraint systems of this type to ensure safety in the event of a crash, defects are indeed possible and vigilance at all times remains essential.
Establishing Liability in Airbag Defect Cases
When the unthinkable happens and an airbag failure causes debilitating injuries or death, victims may feel overwhelmed in terms of how to proceed. Design defects that lead to airbag malfunctions are the result of manufacturer negligence, and it is critical that those responsible be held accountable for placing the public at such risk of serious harm. Medical experts, product engineers, and legal investigators endeavor in a collaborative fashion to make the causal connection between an airbag’s design or installation and the damage ultimately sustained. Because automakers and/or component suppliers are required to ensure the safety of the products they place into the stream of commerce, it is important for victims to make their voices heard and secure fair compensation when that vital duty is breached.
How an Airbag Malfunction Attorney Can Help
Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal understands the profound consequences airbag failures can have on entire families. The mounting medical costs, lost wages, limitations on future earning capacity, therapy and rehabilitation expenses and other categories of loss following an event of this nature can place a victim’s future prospects in real jeopardy. However, the legal system does offer individuals the ability to seek appropriate monetary compensation meant to restore at least some of what has been lost as a result of an automaker’s negligence.
The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal stands ready and willing to provide the responsive, caring counsel airbag failure victims need and deserve at what is undoubtedly one of the most trying times in their lives. We know that the aftermath of an accident of this type is fraught with questions, confusion and fear and will do everything possible to help clients make informed decisions about their legal options.
Aggressive Pursuit of Justice for Colorado Airbag Injury Victims
Each member of the car-buying public has little choice but to place a great deal of faith in the ability of automakers and parts manufacturers to produce vehicles that are efficient, comfortable and above all, safe. When companies fail to live up to these responsibilities and egregiously breach that trust, the impact on consumers and their families can be extraordinarily harsh.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious harm as the result of an airbag you believe was defective, the time to take action is now. Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal is prepared to launch a comprehensive inquiry into the facts of your case, marshal critical evidence and develop the persuasive legal arguments necessary to maximize your financial recovery. To schedule a no-cost initial consultation and learn more about the aggressive legal advocacy our firm provides in the Denver area and across Colorado, contact us at (303) 825-2223.