Law Offices of Paul K. Schrier, PLLC

Sometimes, airbags do more harm than good

Airbags do not completely prevent injury

Airbags can save lives in an accident, particularly when paired with proper seat belt use. Just as with seat belts, however, airbags serve to reduce risk of injury in an accident; they do not completely safeguard occupants of a vehicle during a crash. In some situations, they may even be a contributing factor to serious injury.

How airbags work in an accident

There are four potential collisions in a motor vehicle accident:

  1. Between the vehicle and the outside object or objects
  2. Between the occupants and the interior or the vehicle
  3. Between the occupants' bodies and their enclosed organs
  4. Between the occupants and loose objects in the vehicle

The primary function of airbags is to minimize the impact of the second collision, and therefore any related trauma to the body. A deflated balloon rapidly inflates under the high pressure caused by an accident to cushion occupants during impact. These airbags are typically located in the steering wheel, dashboard on the passenger side and in the side panels of the vehicle.

When airbags fail to work properly

Airbag inflation needs to occur at just the right moment to protect occupants during impact. If inflation is too early, too late or fails to happen at all, serious injury can occur.

In addition to early, late or non-deployment of airbags, injuries can also occur due to spontaneous deployment, the type of chemicals used to allow deployment to occur, issues with airbag deflation and other factors.

Injuries caused by airbags

Although airbag use has been shown to cause a major reduction in car accident-related head, facial and chest injuries, normal deployment can also cause injury. The vast majority of these are minor and occur to a victim's arm or shoulder.

More serious and even fatal injuries also have been attributed to airbag deployment, including the following:

  • Head and neck injuries, including facial trauma, eye injury, soft tissue damage, cervical and spine fractures, and sometimes even decapitation
  • Chest and abdominal injury, such as rib fractures, lumbar spine trauma, heart valve injury and cardiac rupture
  • Shoulder and arm injuries, most commonly fractures and dislocations
  • Other injury, including hearing damage and burns

Some individuals are also more at risk for airbag-related injury, including children, pregnant women and people under a certain height.

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