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Airbag Defects

Texas Automotive Product Defect Attorneys

The History of the Airbag

Airbags were designed to be a supplemental safety device to coincide with seat belts to help protect passengers during frontal collisions. The first airbags were introduced in the early 1970s. Their rudimentary design consisted of an inflatable bag that deployed during a frontal collision, but the airbags had design issues, which resulted in numerous fatalities. Due to these problems, auto manufacturers went back to the drawing board and re-designed this technology during the 1980s for mass production of gas-inflated airbags starting in the early 1990s.

Types of Airbags

Although frontal airbags were the first to be mass produced in American-made automobiles, there are many different types of airbags that have been introduced and installed in cars sold in the US over the past 3 decades. These airbags can be lumped into 2 main categories – Frontal and Side Air Bags (SABs):

  • Frontal driver airbags;
  • Frontal passenger airbags;
  • Side airbags that deploy from the roof rail;
  • Side curtain airbags that deploy from the roof rail;
  • Side chest/torso airbags;
  • Side head airbags; and
  • Side head/chest combination airbags.

For photos of these various types of airbags and an illustration of the area of the body these airbags are intended to protect, visit here.

Regulations of Airbags

Airbags have been mandatory in our vehicles since the 1990s, compliments of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). FMVSS 208 regulates crash protection for occupants in various types of accidents, including seat belts and airbags. This standard uses crash test dummies to measure the loads placed upon the head, neck, chest and femur area of the dummy during a simulated crash. The goal is to decrease the loads placed on the dummy, and auto manufacturers use airbags to fulfill that goal.

Airbag Defects

Although this technology certainly saves lives, there are also many perilous defects associated with airbags that we have seen since they were first introduced into the market. These defects include:

  • Aggressive deployments (injuries to face/eyes);
  • Non-deployments;
  • Late deployments;
  • Accidental deployments;
  • Airbag sensor failures;
  • Failure to maintain inflation for the requisite period of time (up to 6 seconds in some airbags);
  • Injuries to Children;
  • Malfunctioning on/off switches for late-model passenger vehicles and trucks; and
  • Airbag Recalls.

Unfortunately, airbags are one of the most recalled components of an automobile. By March of 2013, Honda and Toyota recalled airbags in various lines of their automobiles, totaling 1.5 million vehicles. In 2012, the auto manufacturers set an all-time record for airbag recalls – 22 recalls covering 18 brands of automobiles.  There are websites available to assist you in determining if your vehicle has had a recall of its airbag or other components.

Hidden Dangers – Prior Deployments

Most people don’t realize that once your airbag deploys in an accident, it is a very complicated process to reinstall the airbag so that it will offer the same protection the next time you may need it. Not only may the bag itself need to be replaced, but the vehicle needs to have several other airbag components serviced at the same time. Often times, repairs are made by facilities that do not perform a thorough check of the airbag prior to returning your vehicle to the road, resulting in a non-functioning airbag that provides no protection during a collision.

Anyone buying a used car should research whether the vehicle has ever been in a prior accident to see if the airbag previously deployed. If so, you may want to have the vehicle checked by a certified mechanic at a reputable service facility prior to purchasing the used car. One good tool to use when investigating prior accidents of used cars is Carfax.

If you have a question about an airbag defect, call the San Antonio and Houston, Texas Airbag Defect Lawyers at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation.