Did your airbag fail to deploy in a front-end collision?
Did you receive airbag injuries because your airbags didn't deploy in an accident?
Regardless of who caused a front-end traffic accident, you expect your airbags to deploy and protect you and any passengers in your vehicle. Unfortunately, airbag deployment sometimes fails during an accident. If your airbags didn't deploy in an accident, you and your passengers can experience severe and even life-threatening injuries. In some cases, you might have a claim against the airbag manufacturer. However, more often than not, you will need to seek compensation from the driver who caused the car crash.
This guide provides more information about how airbags protect you, possible reasons why your airbag didn't deploy, and a discussion about liability. When you have questions about your legal rights in airbag deployment or other collision situations, contact the skilled car accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, P.A.
Airbags are Supposed to Offer Protection During Severe Traffic Collisions
Auto manufacturers started placing airbags in vehicles during the mid-to late-1980s. Today's motor vehicles not only come with frontal airbags but side airbags too. Front airbags have been standard in all passenger vehicles since 1999, and auto manufacturers may offer side airbags as standard or optional. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), frontal airbags have saved over 50,000 lives.
A moderate to severe accident triggers the airbag system's electronic controls to send a signal to inflate the airbags. This occurs through the release of harmless gas. This process occurs so quickly that it sometimes causes injury. In most cases, the safety and protection of an airbag outweigh the danger of airbag injuries. However, children under age 13 should not be exposed to airbag deployment because it can cause severe injuries.
Possible Reasons Your Airbag Didn't Deploy in an Accident
Airbag deployment relies on several different factors, including the speed of a crash, the vehicles involved, the direction of impact, the design of the airbag system, and the location of crash sensors.
According to the NHTSA, some possible reasons your airbag didn't deploy during a crash might include:
- The conditions of the crash were not severe enough to warrant deployment. Seatbelts provide enough protection on their own during low-speed and low-impact collisions.
- If you have a newer vehicle, you might have an advanced frontal airbag system. Sometimes these advanced systems automatically deactivate passenger airbags when the system does not detect a passenger or detects a small person or child in the seat.
- Advanced side airbag systems also automatically deactivate airbags when a child or small person is seated too close to the airbag.
- Airbags need to be replaced after they deploy. Previous owners of a used vehicle might not have replaced airbags after a crash, whether or not they deployed.
- System and manufacturing defects, including defective sensors, electrical components, and modules, can prevent an airbag from deploying during a collision.
- In severe collisions, electrical wires that control the airbag system can get severed, causing deactivation.
Why Didn't My Airbag Deploy in a Car Accident?
Airbags are not designed to deploy in every situation. In some accidents, it is best if your airbags do not deploy. If you were involved in any of the following accidents, your airbag should not have been deployed.
- Minor accidents or fender-benders at the front of the vehicle
- Accidents that involve hitting small animals such as squirrels, dogs, and deer
- Accidents that involve striking a curb, sign, or parking block
- Crashes that occur from hitting potholes, speed bumps, or loose gravel
- Accidents that have little deceleration from front to rear, such as rear-end collisions, broadside collisions, and rollovers
If your airbags did not deploy in a car accident, it may simply be what it was designed to do. For example, if your airbag didn't deploy in a front-end collision, you may not have been going at a fast enough speed to cause airbag deployment. An experienced car accident attorney can review your accident and your case to determine if your airbags were to blame for the injuries you suffered.
Florida No-Fault Insurance Laws
In minor accidents with little property damage and minor or no injuries, it does not matter whether your airbags deployed in a traffic crash. Florida is one of a few states that uses a no-fault insurance system. Florida residents who register their motor vehicles must purchase a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. When an accident occurs, those involved must file insurance claims under their own policies regardless of who or what caused the accident.
Florida's no-fault PIP insurance covers 80 percent of medical costs and pays disability compensation equal to 60 percent of your wages up to the policy limit. Severe accidents quickly meet or exceed no-fault insurance policy limits. Once you have exhausted your coverage, you can step outside the no-fault system and seek additional compensation from any party who contributed to the accident.
If My Airbags Didn't Deploy in an Accident, are The Defective Airbags?
In some cases, when an airbag fails to deploy in a car accident, it is because of a manufacturing defect. When consumers sue manufacturers because a defective product caused injuries, courts examine these product liability cases to determine the specific type and extent of the defect.
An airbag can have three different types of defects:
These defects occur during the conception of a product. The execution of the design is done according to the design, but the design is unsafe or otherwise defective. In the case of airbags, manufacturers do not typically learn of the defect until consumers have accidents in vehicles where they are installed.
Once a safe design of an airbag has been approved, companies begin manufacturing the product. During this phase, employee error, equipment failure, shipping problems, and sources of material can cause a manufacturing defect. In manufacturing defects, the design is safe, but its execution is flawed.
These types of defects have to do with the information consumers receive about the product from auto sellers and manufacturers. Sometimes information defects can occur when companies do not warn consumers of hazards. Marketing defects involving airbags more often occur when a manufacturer makes misleading statements or engages in deceptive advertisements about safety.
Takata Airbag Defects and Recall
Japan's Takata Corporation is responsible for the largest automotive recall in the history of the United States. The recall affected almost every auto manufacturer and resulted in the recall of more than 60 million vehicles, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The defective airbags worked, but some of them exploded while consumers were simply driving their cars. The recall resulted in dozens of class-action lawsuits against auto companies and Takata for defective airbags. The company also allegedly engaged in deceptive business practices.
Based on a court ruling, Takata agreed to the following conditions:
- They could not participate in deceptive or misleading advertising of their airbag systems.
- Takata could only represent that their airbags are safe if they have the scientific and engineering evidence to support their claims.
- Takata cannot falsify or manipulate testing data or knowingly provide inaccurate data.
- Takata cannot sell any airbag system with the same chemicals that caused their airbags to explode except to fulfill obligations under various automotive recalls.
It's not likely the failure of your airbags to deploy has anything to do with the Takata recall. Still, the case provides a strong example of what it looks like when an auto or auto part manufacturer is liable for injuries to consumers. Additionally, taking legal action against the manufacturer in a defective airbag lawsuit is not always the best choice for those who suffer injuries in a car accident.
Often, many airbag-related accidents occur at once, and these cases end up being folded into class-action lawsuits. In a class action, all the money a court awards in damages is split among those named in the suit based on their amount of loss, and it can take years before you see any compensation. You can, however, individually pursue legal action against the airbag manufacturer. However, proving they are as responsible or more responsible for damages than the driver who caused the accident is not an easy task. Ultimately, you should speak to a qualified auto accident attorney and let them advise you on the best course of action for your specific circumstances.
Determining Legal Liability When Your Airbags Didn't Deploy in an Accident
If your airbags didn't deploy in an accident, you might decide to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. When you bring a lawsuit against a manufacturer for defective airbags, you must prove negligence on the part of the company.
A Florida court will find the auto or airbag manufacturer liable for damages only if you, with the help of a skilled auto accident and product liability attorney, can prove the following:
- The airbags in your vehicles should have deployed during the traffic accident, but they did not.
- The airbags in your vehicle failed to deploy because of a defect.
- You suffered injuries because your vehicle's airbags failed to deploy.
- The injuries you sustained were severe enough to cause you to incur financial losses or damages.
An important caveat applies to the above conditions if another driver caused the accident, which likely caused your injuries. If you are seeking compensation from the auto or airbag manufacturer in a personal injury lawsuit, you actually have to prove that the injuries you sustained were far worse than what they would have been because your airbag failed to deploy when it should have.
An experienced car crash attorney can explain whether pursuing a defective airbag lawsuit is the best option for you to recoup losses related to your accident. This decision might involve consulting with experts such as engineers and accident reconstruction specialists who can provide an expert opinion about whether the airbag was defective and caused you to suffer more severe injuries. Unless you have suffered catastrophic injuries that prevent you from working or your loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries, taking legal action against the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company will likely be your best course of action.
Recouping Losses After a Car Accident
If you forgo bringing a lawsuit against the auto or airbag manufacturer after your airbags failed to deploy, you might need to seek damages from the at-fault driver after you have exhausted your PIP insurance coverage.
If you reach a settlement agreement or the court rules in your favor, you can recover some or all of the following economic and non-economic losses related to your accident and injuries:
- Cost of medical treatment beyond your PIP insurance, including ambulance and emergency services, hospital stay, doctor visits, surgery, follow-up care, travel to and from the hospital or doctor, diagnostic imaging, lab testing, and prescription medication
- Estimated future medical treatment costs when an accident causes severe injuries that require extensive recovery or a permanent condition or disability that requires ongoing and indefinite care
- Costs associated with rehabilitation, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, mental health services, and any other therapy that helps accident victims regain function or learn how to cope with injuries and disabilities
- Lost wages beyond PIP coverage for missing work due to the accident, injuries, hospitalization, and recovery
- Estimated future lost wages or lost earning capacity when catastrophic injuries prevent you from returning to your former job or seeking any type of gainful employment in the future
- Costs associated with modifying your home to make it more accessible such as installing a wheelchair ramp, installing grab bars and handrails in bathrooms and throughout your home, or constructing a main floor addition if you cannot go up and down stairs after your accident
- Replacement costs related to services you used to provide for your household before your accident, such as lawn care service, pool maintenance, household repairs, cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, and childcare services
- Physical pain and suffering from your injuries
- Emotional pain and suffering from your injuries
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Decreased quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Other non-economic losses that apply to your case
Lawyers and courts refer to these damages as compensatory damages, awarded to an accident victim to compensate them for losses related to their accident and injuries. Florida courts sometimes also award punitive damages intended to punish the defendant for their actions. However, courts reserve punitive damages for less-common accidents that involve willful harm or gross negligence. For example, if a drunk driver caused a car accident, the court might consider awarding punitive damages.
Being involved in a serious car accident and suffering injuries is a traumatic event that can impact you and your family for the rest of your life. Wondering if the deployment of your airbags could have prevented some of your pain and stress can make matters worse. If you have sustained injuries in an accident and your airbags failed to deploy, contact our experienced auto accident attorneys as soon as possible. The dedicated personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group can guide you through the insurance claims process and devise the best strategy for you to recover the compensation you deserve.