Having airbags in our vehicles saves lives—39,976 of them between 1987 and 2012, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And that’s just for frontal airbags.
However, airbags can also malfunction and injure you. We need look no further than the largest recall in automotive history, the Takata airbag recall, which included both front and side airbags. Overall, the defective airbag components in inflators and propellants have, at last count, been named as the cause in 19 deaths and over 180 injuries in the U.S.
Often, problems with airbags that explode on their own arise as they age, with older vehicles—and their drivers—being especially vulnerable. In Miami during September, 2017, both the driver and passenger side airbags spontaneously exploded in a 2002 Jeep Liberty. The driver suffered second degree burns that required skin grafts, leaving her arms scarred. This driver and three others in separate incidents, all exploding airbag victims, are part of a suit alleging that Jeep did not alert them to the airbag recall.
Possible Airbag Injuries
When airbags rupture or explode, they can shoot metal shrapnel into the vehicle, wounding the driver and passengers. But all airbags, even those that correctly deploy, release an alkaline aerosol that can create deep burns when it comes into contact with bodily fluids, such as perspiration or the thin coat of tears that naturally covers your eyes. An airbag’s impact on a child or someone with osteoporosis can cause broken ribs and sternums (chest bone) and spinal bruising.
In one study by the Michigan Ear Institute, side air bag activation could result in ear problems such as perforated eardrums that required surgical repair. Many persons developed ringing in their ears; others developed chronic dizziness or ear pain from jaw problems appearing to originate from the accident.
Finally, airbags have been implicated in “hidden” cardiovascular injuries, even where there was no visible physical damage. Such injuries are most likely to occur when the occupant is not wearing a seat belt or is less than 10 inches from the airbag. Hidden cardiovascular injuries are especially prevalent in low-speed crashes. The main types of cardiovascular injury occurring after an airbag deploys include aortic transections, myocardial infarctions, right atrial ruptures, and cardiac tamponades. All of these conditions are serious and can lead to death.
As of mid-October, 2017, Mercedes-Benz has recalled over one million vehicles around the world because of faulty wiring in the steering column. An electrostatic discharge involving the wiring could cause the airbag to spontaneously activate. Affected are at least a half-million SUVs and cars in the U.S., including A, B, C, and E-Class cars as well as the SUV models CLA, GLA, and GLC from 2012 to 2018.
BMX X3 SUVs from 2006 through 2010 are also under recall for a defect in the front passenger seat’s occupant detection mat. The faulty mats might not register that a person is sitting in the seat, meaning that the airbag might not deploy in a crash. Over 85,000 owners will be notified by postal mail in late November.
Is My Vehicle Under Recall?
Your best protection against an exploding airbag is to check the recall database. If you’ve never received a notice about airbag (or any) recalls, especially if you have moved or you bought your vehicle used, it would be a good idea to check the NHTSA’s database for your car’s vehicle Identification number (VIN). The NHTSA’s recall site lets you enter your VIN (find it on your vehicle’s registration) to discover whether your vehicle has been recalled for any reason. However, the site does not cover recalls that are more than 15 years old. You can also look up VINs for recall notices on another site, Check to Protect.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
The Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll receive the personalized attention you deserve. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by an airbag failure or in any kind of auto accident, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. Defective auto cases require a thorough investigation by an experienced legal team to determine which individuals and companies should be named as defendants and which legal theories should be pursued. South Carolina law can be complex, and there is a deadline for filing a claim. The initial consultation is always free, so reach out to us today by calling us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.