Overkill: When an Airbag Proves More Dangerous than an Accident
In recent years, our law firm has investigated a number of cases where airbags were deployed with inordinate force, causing more harm than the accidents they were meant to protect against. In other cases, airbags were deployed inadvertently, when there was no accident at all. In yet others, the pressure of an airbag was so extreme that it caused the steering wheel to explode, hurling shrapnel-like fragments into drivers and passengers.
Clearly, a properly designed airbag is meant to protect—not cause injury or death. But, airbags are becoming more and more dangerous. Many of the newer airbag systems have complex, multi-force inflators, and feature sequential inflation, utilizing technology that is potentially deadly.
When an airbag deploys in an overly-aggressive fashion, it intrudes too far into the space of the occupant, at a force and velocity that is extremely dangerous. It can cause injuries far more serious than simple lacerations, contusions, and broken bones. It can cause blindness, brain damage, hearing loss, and permanent disfigurement—even death by decapitation.
A large percentage of airbags today are manufactured and supplied to auto makers by Takata, a major supplier of airbags and seat belts, both nationally and internationally. Recently, both Honda and Takata were sued, after a mother of three, involved in a minor fender bender, died when an airbag exploded in her face, lacerating the left side of her neck, and severing her arteries. Tragically, the young mother bled to death in front of her children.
Honda has recalled millions of vehicles since 2008 because of faulty airbags. The latest recall involves the Pilot crossover vehicle from model years 2009 to 2013, and Odyssey minivans from years 2009 to 2013.
But Honda is not alone. Chrysler recently recalled 919,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs produced in model years 2002 and 2003. Last July, Hyundai recalled 220,000 Sonata sedans and San Fe SUVs from model years 2007 to 2009. And Ford recently announced a recall of 154,000 Fiesta models. All of these recalls involved defective airbags.
If you have problems with any of these vehicles, you should contact your local dealer immediately. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has made the discovery and resolution of airbag problems a top priority, maintains an auto safety hotline, as well. Its number is 888-327-4236.
Defective airbags are among the most commonly cited defective products in suits involving catastrophic injuries and death. But, although there are newer and safer designs available, many manufacturers still continue to put their bottom line ahead of safety considerations.
Our airbag and product defect lawyers understand that safety should never be an option. The lawyers at Reiff and Bily have received the highest possible peer review ratings in legal ability and ethical standards, and have been recognized as the Top 100 Attorneys in Philadelphia and Top Attorneys in the Northeast. We always offer a free, no obligation consultation for those involved in motor vehicle accidents, and for those who have sustained injuries resulting from airbag defects.