Airbag Injuries in Car Wrecks

Working alongside seat belts, the airbag is one of the most important vehicle safety features used in vehicular transportation. In the event of a crash, airbags offer added protection to the most vulnerable parts of your body: your head, neck and chest. This extra cushion protects the driver and the front seat passengers from more serious injury. Similar to other safety features, the full safety benefits of the airbag depend on the airbag’s ability to deploy functionally.

While airbags mitigate physical damages in most Chicago car accidents, sometimes their sudden deployment causes more physical damage. Have you been injured by an airbag that either unexpectedly deployed or didn’t deploy correctly during an accident? If you or someone you love has suffered injuries because of a faulty airbag, contact an experienced airbag injury lawyer at Curcio & Casciato for help. Call today at 312-321-1111 for a free case evaluation, or fill out our online intake form.

Airbag Deployment Injuries

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All vehicles have airbags that deploy due to signals from sensors. These sensors are very sensitive to changes in the vehicle, such as its speed or deceleration. They are necessary to proper airbag deployment. Unfortunately, airbag injuries can occur from both the proper functioning and malfunctioning of the airbags, as well as the sensors that deploy them. In the following sections, our defective airbag attorneys answer the most common questions regarding airbag injuries.

What Is an Airbag?

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An airbag is a pillow-like safety device that inflates during an automobile accident. They’ve been a mandatory addition for vehicles in the United States since 1998. Airbags are passive safety devices. Passive safety features lay idle, until they’re called to action. Once a sensor determines a crash, passive features, such as the airbag, become active.

Airbags function to cushion the driver and passengers from injuries that occur during a car crash. All vehicles must come equipped with front airbags. However, the majority of vehicles also include side airbags.

How Do Airbags Work?

A chemical reaction triggers the rapid deployment of the airbag. But what prompts this reaction in the first place? Sensors along the outside of the vehicle detect collisions. These sensors then send electric signals to the canister which contains the substances for the chemical reaction. The electric signals detonate a chemical compound which causes the airbag to become filled with nitrogen gas. From the time the sensor detects a collision to the time the airbag is fully inflated, only around 30 milliseconds passes. Approximately 50 milliseconds after a crash occurs, the vehicle occupants receive the protection of the airbags.

What Are Common Types of Airbag Injuries?

Airbag injuries can range from mild to very severe. In rare situations, they even cause fatal injuries. Below, we list some of the notable airbag defect injuries to be aware of.

  • Abrasions to the upper body, such as the face, chest, and arms
  • Eye injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries, brain swelling, concussions, and brain bruising
  • Facial injuries
  • Chemical or friction burns to the chest, hands, and arms
  • Wrist injuries and finger sprains
  • Spine injuries such as fractures or blunt force trauma
  • Fractures to the skull, face, rib cage, wrists, and arms
  • Rupture of the heart muscle
  • Throat irritation, coughing, and asthma attacks
  • Contact dermatitis from the airbag
  • Loss of hearing or ear trauma
  • Internal organ damage and internal bleeding
  • Intercostal muscle strain
  • Fetal injuries or a puncture of the placenta in pregnant women

The most serious possibility of a major airbag injury or malfunction is wrongful death. This can occur if metal shrapnel cuts through major arteries located in the neck, or if other complications occur resulting from the airbag injury.

What Is a Defective Airbag?

A faulty airbag is one that has a design flaw, a manufacturing flaw, or any other flaw that compromises the airbag’s ability to work safely. As an example, the recall of Takata airbags in the United States has seen two primary issues, which we list below.

  • The propellant agent in the inflator is ammonium nitrate, which is highly flammable.
  • There is no drying agent used to absorb moisture.

When the chemical ammonium nitrate gets exposed to moisture, it starts to deteriorate. If this deterioration has happened before a crash occurs, it could result in an explosion. The explosion generates shrapnel, which has the potential to injure drivers and passengers in car crashes. Other traits of faulty airbags include the following.

  • Airbag failure to deploy in the event of an auto accident
  • Late deployment after a car accident
  • Unexpected deployment, or malfunctioning airbags

How Do I Know if an Airbag Is Defective?

Luckily, there is a way to determine whether or not your vehicle could contain defective airbags. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website and navigate to the recalls section. Have your vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) on hand. Enter the VIN into the search bar of the recall page. The results will notify you of whether or not your vehicle has defective airbag systems, a defective airbag inflator, defective frontal airbags, or other airbag defects. In most cases, the airbag manufacturer will replace faulty airbags at no cost to you.

Statute of Limitations for Airbag Injury Lawsuits in Illinois

To begin, you must understand that you must report your automobile accident to your insurance company as soon as feasible. Most motor insurance companies want you to report any collision within a reasonable timeframe. If at all possible, report the occurrence the same day. You risk not obtaining reimbursement if you neglect to report an accident to your vehicle insurance company.

If the at-fault party’s motor insurance company dismisses your claim or declines to pay a reasonable settlement, you may need to file a lawsuit to get the money you deserve. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Illinois is two years from the date of the accident. If an automobile accident victim does not file a case against the allegedly negligent party within this two-year time frame, they will not be able to obtain the compensation they require.

If the sole issue in your vehicle accident claim was property damage, you must file your case within five years of the date of the accident.

Who Is Responsible for Airbag Injuries?

Depending on the facts of your case, there are a number of potentially liable parties that injury victims can seek compensation from in their personal injury claim. We list these below.

  • Vehicle manufacturer
  • Seller of the vehicle
  • Repairer of the vehicle
  • The at-fault driver

When an Airbag Deploys, How Long Does it Take to Inflate, Protect the Driver, and Deflate?

Sudden deceleration, like that experienced in a car crash, causes airbags to deploy. Sensors responsible for detecting this deceleration will trigger a chemical explosion that causes the airbag to inflate. Once the explosion is triggered, the actual deployment only takes about one-tenth of a second. After the driver’s (or passenger’s) head makes contact with the airbag, the air pocket begins to deflate.

The speed at which this process occurs makes driver preparation impossible. The same speed and force that deploys to protect is also the most common source of airbag injuries.

How to Treat Airbag Burns?

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Three types of burns can occur as a result of airbag injuries: thermal burns, chemical burns, and friction burns. Address airbag injuries quickly, as they could become more serious over time.

For chemical burns, you’ll want to remove any clothing that’s been contaminated with the airbag chemical. Wash the skin clean with water, for at least 20 minutes. If any chemical gets into the eyes, flush the eyes with water immediately.

Thermal burns, caused by the heat of airbag deployment, are the most common types of airbag burns. If possible, exit the vehicle, or move the airbag away from the body. Cool the burned area with water, not ice. Ice may make the airbag injury more severe, so cool water is best. To combat pain, swelling, and infection, take a pain reliever, and apply a burn cream to the affected area.

Friction burns occur when a deployed airbag rubs against the skin. They are usually mild, and can often be treated at home. Friction burns may cause blisters on the skin, which should not be popped or removed. Blisters protect the raw skin underneath until new skin can be formed. Airbag injuries are not always severe, but if a burn cannot be treated at home, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. As with any type of car accident injury, seek medical attention immediately and contact an experienced Chicago burn injury attorney once you are safe. 

How Long Does It Take To Settle A Product Liability Lawsuit?

The length of a product liability lawsuit varies from case to case. How quickly you are able to get through it depends on a variety of factors. The first depends on the extent of your injury. More serious injuries that result in either long-term or permanent disability generally take longer to resolve. This is because it is harder to determine what amount of compensation is appropriate to cover future expenses. 

If the injured plaintiff has fully recovered before filing a claim, it will be easier to determine the amount of compensation and, thus, reach a quicker settlement. However, you must keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations for how long you have to file a claim. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. This means from the date of the injury, you have two years to press for civil action before your time limit is up.

Another factor that determines the length of a product liability lawsuit is how quickly your lawyer can prove that the product was defective. This can take a lot of investigating on your lawyer’s part. Your Chicago product liability lawyer must gather enough evidence to prove that the average consumer would not have noticed the defectiveness of the product. 

With all of this in mind, it may take months, potentially years, to reach a settlement. However, choosing a law firm like Curcio can make sure your case is moving forward at the quickest possible rate. Contact one of our Chicago personal injury attorneys today.

Can You Sue for Airbag Burns?

If the airbag has a manufacturing flaw, chemical compounds or hot gas may not stay in the airbag as long as they should. Alternatively, they may erupt into the car’s interior. This can result in second-degree burns on your face and body, as well as chemical burns in your eyes and other severe harm. If this happens, you may be entitled to the following types of compensation.

  • Medical bills: Burns are common injuries that require more extensive medical attention and ongoing care than other types of localized injury. In severe cases, some patients require skin grafts or reconstructive surgery, which is very costly. 
  • Lost income: You’ll probably need to take some time off work after suffering an airbag burn to recover and recuperate. You might be eligible for compensation for both current and future lost wages.
  • Property damage: You can claim compensation for any damage to your car or other property in addition to any bodily injuries you may have had.
  • Scarring or disfigurement: Skin grafts and severe scarring can drastically alter your look, lowering your quality of life and causing severe emotional and psychological distress. In some airbag burn cases, these intangible losses can be claimed.
  • Pain and suffering: Another form of immaterial damages for which you may be entitled to sue is bodily pain and suffering.

Recent Airbag Recalls

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Perhaps the most significant airbag recall is the one involving Takata airbags. More of their defective airbags and airbag inflator devices have been recalled as recently as 2020. This is separate from the larger, more notorious airbag recalls from Takata. 

The faulty inflators in these air bags might explode or lead to the airbag not inflating correctly when it deploys, according to the recalls. The problem is thought to be caused by a malfunctioning inflator seal. Moisture can enter into the chemical used to inflate the airbag if the inflator is not correctly sealed, causing the inflator to misfire. This might cause the airbag to deploy slowly during a collision, failing to protect you as intended. It might also cause the inflator to deploy forcefully, perhaps exploding. Metal fragments from the bursting inflator might cause serious injury or death.

Why Didn’t My Airbag Deploy?

Sometimes, the lack of a deploying airbag causes airbag injuries. Several reasons for this exist–some are intentional, while others are malfunctions.

Rapid deceleration triggers airbag deployment. So, unless the vehicle previously reached a specific speed, before rapidly decelerating, the airbag will not deploy. For most vehicles, these triggers begin anywhere from 8-14 miles per hour.

Common malfunctions occur in the sensors, the wiring, and the electrical parts of the airbag system.

The nature of the collision, itself will determine whether or not your airbags will deploy, for the most part. If the impact occurs at an angle, not on a specific side of the vehicle, the airbag deployment may not trigger.

Malfunctioning airbag systems can also cause airbag injuries. If the impact occurred head-on, your airbag may fail to deploy if the sensors did not activate as designed. The majority of airbag deployment claims fall into this category. Most manufacturers fail to properly test, calibrate, or include enough sensors.

In other cases, your airbag’s sensors may work and would have fired as designed, but the signal failed to reach the airbag module. We see this in cases where one airbag deploys, but the other doesn’t.

Another scenario includes a malfunctioning airbag module. This occurs when the manufacturer creates a faulty airbag design. This is most recently seen with the Takata airbag recall.

How to Reduce the Risk of an Airbag Injury in Chicago

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There are a few ways in which you can reduce your risk of serious airbag injury. Below, we list some of the precautions you can take.

  • Always wear a seat belt. It will hold you in place in the event of an accident, which prevents you from colliding with the steering wheel. It also keeps your body away from the area where the vehicle’s airbags will deploy, which protects you from serious injuries.
  • Sit as far from the steering wheel as you can. The NHTSA recommends that you sit as far from the dashboard and steering wheel as possible. A good rule of thumb is to slide your seat back until it is at least 10 inches away from the airbag deployment area.
  • Always properly restrain children. According to Illinois law, children under age 2 are required to sit in a rear-facing child restraint system unless they are over 40 inches tall or weigh more than 40 lbs. Once they reach age 2, they may transition to a forward-facing car seat with an internal harness system. Once they outgrow the forward-facing car seat, they may transition to a booster seat. Children must stay in a belt-positioning booster seat until they outgrow it.
  • Avoid driving while pregnant. Pregnant individuals should avoid driving if possible, as the steering column and airbags pose an injury risk to the fetus.

Contact The Chicago Airbag Injury Lawyers at Curcio & Casciato

At Curcio & Casciato, safety is our top priority. If you or a loved one have been affected by an airbag injury, you can trust us to represent your case with dedication. Since 1957, Curcio & Casciato has made protecting and representing the people of Chicago our ultimate goal. We pride ourselves on having recovered millions for those who have experienced airbag injuries. If you’d like to learn more about our firm, feel free to give us a call at 312-321-1111 or fill out our online intake form for a free consultation or free case review.