Airbag injuries can happen any time you’re involved in an automobile accident. These safety features are meant to save lives, but sometimes they can cause debilitating injuries—even death—if they malfunction.
Front airbags have been required in all new passenger vehicles since 1999, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Side airbags aren’t mandated, but most vehicle manufacturers include them as part of the standard design.
Victims of airbag injuries have rights to fair compensation under personal injury laws in New Mexico. In this guide we’ll discuss:
- How do airbags work?
- What are the benefits of airbags?
- What are the 10 most common airbag injuries?
- How do you prevent airbag injuries?
How do airbags work?
Airbags work by providing cushioning and protection in the event of a collision. When a collision occurs, the airbag is deployed and instantly begins to fill with air. If it’s functioning properly, the airbag quickly deflates, providing cushioning for the front occupants of the vehicle.
Sensors tell the airbags when to deploy. These sensors are located throughout your vehicle. They constantly monitor the speed and force of the vehicle. When a collision happens, the sensors send a signal to the airbag control unit, triggering the airbags to release.
Airbags are sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t cause injuries.
What are the benefits of airbags?
Airbags have been around since the 1970s. Over the years, their design and performance have improved, making them a valuable safety feature. Most automobile insurance companies provide significant discounts on coverage if your vehicle has front and side airbags.
One of the biggest features of airbags is their ability to reduce your chances of hitting your head or upper body on the vehicle’s interior—including the steering wheel—during a crash. Air bags are designed to complement seatbelts, so make sure you’re using both to lessen your chances of injury during a car accident.
Besides preventing drivers and front-seat passengers from hitting their heads and upper bodies on the vehicle’s interior, there are other benefits. They include:
- Airbags prevent you from being thrown out of the vehicle during a crash.
- Airbags decrease the amount of force impacting your head by limiting the distance it can move forward.
- Airbags increase the cushioning around your head, neck, and spine.
What are the 10 most common airbag injuries?
Airbags are designed to save lives, but that doesn’t mean they always work as intended. Recalls for this safety feature have happened numerous times in recent years. One of the biggest airbag recalls involved the Takata PSAN model, which were installed in 34 brands of vehicles made by 19 different automakers and sold in the U.S.
Malfunctioning airbags aren’t the only reason a driver or passenger can get hurt. Even when they work properly, airbags still have the potential of causing injury. Here are 10 of the most common airbag injuries.
- Asthma attacks
Asthma attacks and other respiratory issues aren’t uncommon when airbags release. That’s because airbags are filled with gasses that can trigger breathing difficulties, especially in those with pre-existing conditions.
Your arms, chest, face, and hands can get fabric “burn” as the airbag deploys and brushes hard against your skin.
- Chest injuries
The impact of a deploying airbag can cause blunt force trauma injuries to your chest. If you have a heart defect or other cardiac condition, the impact can sometimes trigger it. The closer you sit to your steering wheel, the more likely you are to suffer from chest injuries.
- Ear trauma
Hearing loss—temporary and permanent—can happen when an airbag releases. Air bags pack an acoustic pressure of 170dBs, which can produce harmful inner ear damage, according to the JAMA Network.
- Eye injuries
You can experience eye injuries from airbags in one of two ways. The chemicals packed inside can get into your eyes during deployment, or they can succumb to the pressure of the airbag deployment.
- Facial injuries
Bruises, fractures, and lacerations to the face aren’t uncommon during airbag deployment. You also might experience chemical burns to your face from the combination of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, which combine to form sodium hydroxide. If it penetrates your skin, it also can cause deep-tissue injuries.
- Fetal injuries
Pregnant persons face a unique challenge when airbags are released. The brunt of the impact can hit their enlarged bellies, causing injury to the developing fetus. Safety experts recommend following the 10-inch rule if you’re pregnant and riding in a vehicle with airbags. Stay back from the area of deployment by at least 10 inches.
The force of an airbag deploying can fracture your ribs, skull, and wrist bones. It can be difficult to prevent these kinds of injuries for drivers because these areas of their body are close to the steering wheel, where the airbag is stored.
- Internal bleeding
Internal bleeding is always an issue following a car accident, whether your airbags deployed or not. Pressure from seatbelts also can lead to internal bleeds that may not be immediately apparent. This type of injury is most likely if your internal organs were impacted by the airbag. It’s always a good idea to get evaluated by a medical professional if you’re in a crash where the airbags were released.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Airbags are designed to prevent TBIs by preventing your head from slamming against the steering wheel or dashboard of your vehicle. That doesn’t mean they’re foolproof. If your head rebounds forcefully from the impact with the airbag, you still might suffer a TBI.
How do you prevent airbag injuries?
There are steps you can take to protect yourself from airbag injuries. Making sure you’re properly seated in your vehicle is the most effective safeguard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends drivers and front-seat passengers sit at least 10 inches away from airbags.
Pay attention to recalls on your vehicle. You can check for recalls using online tools that take your vehicle identification number or license plate number and run it against a list of known recalls.
Get help for airbag injuries
Proving an airbag injury is an important part of filing a personal injury lawsuit. That’s why it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in Albuquerque as soon as possible after an accident.
Even if you’re at fault for an accident that caused your airbag injuries, you still have legal recourse. Don’t wait until an insurance company denies your claim before reaching out to a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights.
Schedule your free case evaluation by calling 505-218-7844 or requesting an appointment online.