Over the years, airbags have become a mandatory safety device in all new cars. There is no question that along with using a seat belt, many lives have been saved due to airbags. Airbags are meant to prevent the occupant's head from striking a part of the vehicle and spread the force of the impact across their body. Due to the speed of airbag deployment and the chemicals used, there is always the possibility that airbags do more harm than good. Believe it or not, airbags often do not operate properly causing serious injury and deaths that could have easily been prevented. Philadelphia product liability lawyer Jeffrey Reiff and the experienced Pennsylvania product liability lawyers at Reiff & Bily have been researching and handling automotive and defective airbag cases for many years.
Airbags were developed in the 1950’s, but it was not until the 1980’s that airbags became mandatory in new cars. The driver’s airbag is found within the steering wheel, which protects the driver from hitting the wheel or dashboard. During an auto accident, four collisions may occur: (1) between the vehicle and the other object; (2) between the occupants (restrained or unrestrained) and the interior of the vehicle; (3) between the occupants’ organs and the enclosing body wall or cavity (such as the brain and skull); and (4) between occupant(s) and any loose objects in the vehicle.
Airbags and seatbelts are meant to protect collisions between the occupant(s) and the interior of the car. Airbags work when the car decelerates very quickly, as during a collision, and a sensor triggers a chemical reaction that produces a non-toxic gas that inflates the airbag. When the airbag deflates, dust and gasses are released into the car. These gasses and dust can cause asthma, chemical injuries (burns), or other irritations and breathing problems. The entire process of inflating and deflating the airbag takes less than a second.
Airbags need to react extremely fast to a collision, especially if an occupant is not wearing a seat belt. Airbags can deploy at over 200 MPH to protect an unrestrained occupant. Since airbags have to deploy so fast, injuries could occur from the extreme speed at which the airbag inflates. Injuries can occur to the eyes, head, chest, or limbs and could result in scaring, paralysis, blindness, loss of hearing, broken bones, severance of a body part, or even death.