If you're in an auto accident, the last thing you expect to seriously injure you is probably the thing designed to protect you—your airbag. Even worse, some airbags have been known to deploy when there isn't even an accident. Recent lawsuits have brought to light some serious defects in airbags that could put you and your family at risk.
The type of airbag you have could put you at greater risk.
Takata airbags, which are in a variety of Toyotas, BMWs, Chryslers, Fords, Hondas and other vehicles, are becoming synonymous with airbag danger, thanks to at least 139 injuries and 10 deaths related to airbag explosions. The danger is serious enough that 24 million U.S. vehicles have already been recalled. Unless they can be proven safe, 50 million more may need to be recalled by 2018.
Even if you don't have a Takata airbag in your vehicle, however, you could be at risk if your vehicle has the same ammonium nitrate propellant used to inflate its airbags. Ammonium nitrate is a volatile compound that can become explosive under the right circumstances—it's a known component in certain bombs. This has forced bits of shrapnel from the airbag itself and damaged vehicles into the bodies of passengers and drivers.
Your size may also put you at special risk.
Are you taller than 6'3"? Are you shorter than 4'11"? What about your passengers? Airbags are only designed to protect the average-sized individual. If you or your passengers fall outside of those height ranges, airbags are not designed with your safety in mind. In addition, your passengers may face additional risks if your vehicle has side airbags, which are designed to protect riders during side-impact crashes and rollovers. They've been found particularly unsafe for children.
There are also hidden cardiac dangers.
Airbags are also being blamed for cardiac and pulmonary injuries to drivers and passengers alike, especially at low speeds. A review from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center states that injuries as severe as an aortic transection, atrial ruptures, and valve injuries can occur, even though there's no visible injury. The explosive force of the airbag, especially on smaller people and those sitting less than 10" from the airbag, is usually absorbed by the rider's sternum. The sternum and ribs can fracture, and the heart and lungs can be injured as a result.
You can recover for your injuries.
If an airbag leads to injuries, who can be held responsible? If the airbag is defective and either explodes without warning, explodes too forcefully due to design flaws, or isn't designed with the necessary shut-off devices to protect passengers who are the wrong size to use an airbag, there are several possible defendants. The airbag manufacturer, the automobile manufacturer, and the dealership that sold you the vehicle are all possibilities. This is in addition to anyone who happened to cause the auto accident—and even if you were responsible for the accident yourself.
However, in order to make the strongest case, it's important that you take steps to preserve any evidence. That means that you shouldn't allow any repairs to be made to your vehicle or the airbag until you've spoken with an attorney. Nor should you allow the airbag to be removed for inspection or testing by any company or government agency without your attorney's involvement.