Airbags are arguably one of the most important safety features in cars these days. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in front-end crashes, front airbags reduce driver-side fatalities by 29 percent. They reduce front passenger fatalities by 32 percent for ages 13 and above. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that from 1987 to 2017, airbags saved over 50,000 lives.
In an accident, a properly functioning airbag can mean the difference between minor and major injuries or, in some cases, the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, so can an improperly functioning airbag. If you have learned the hard way what kind of damage a malfunctioning airbag can cause, you have rights, and you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Read on to learn about common airbag injuries, how they occur, what to do in the event of such an accident, and how a qualified lawyer can help.
What Are My Rights After an Airbag Injury?
If you’ve been in an auto accident involving an airbag injury, you’re probably wondering what rights you have when it comes to seeking compensation for damages caused to you or your loved ones. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against either the airbag manufacturer or the auto manufacturer. If any third party recently serviced or replaced your airbag, they may also be held liable for your injuries. Even if you are at fault for the accident, you might still be able to seek justice for a defective airbag.
In order to successfully recover damages in this type of situation, you’ll need to provide proof that the airbags in your car did not work properly and that your injuries were a direct result of the defective airbags. Typically, a lawsuit of this nature would fall under the umbrella of product liability claims. However, circumstances may dictate that other legal claims come into play. You’ll want to speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer right away to determine how best to file the lawsuit and against whom.
Common Airbag Injuries
When looking at the most common airbag injuries, it is important to remember that some injuries caused by airbags are not a result of defects or malfunctions. Airbags can save lives, but in many cases, even when airbags function exactly as intended, injuries can occur.
How Airbags Work
Airbags are meant to be a form of supplemental protection in conjunction with seatbelts. The best way to avoid injuries related to well-functioning airbags is to be correctly seated and wearing a seatbelt. In crashes, an airbag’s electronic control unit will send a signal to an inflation device inside the airbag, which in turn causes an igniter to inflate the airbag with nitrogen gas. This process occurs in a split second. When deployed in a crash, your airbags should protect your head and chest by preventing these areas of your body from smacking into harder surfaces inside your vehicle.
Most Common Injuries
Though they are generally life-saving devices, injuries caused by airbags can occur, especially if a driver or passenger is sitting too close to the airbag when it is deployed, or if they are not seated properly or wearing a seatbelt. Here is a list of some of the most common types of airbag injuries:
Burns caused by friction when body parts rub against the airbag
Bruises or fractures caused by the force of the expanding airbag
Traumatic brain injuries
Eye injuries, either from forceful impact or chemical reactions
Damage to the ears, including hearing loss
Internal organ damage/internal bleeding
Respiratory trauma caused by chemical reactions
Fetal injury in pregnant women
Examples of airbag malfunctions include sensors not working, leading to an airbag’s failure to deploy, and exploding airbags, leading to injuries caused by flying metal shards and/or shrapnel.
Types of Compensation Available for Airbag Injuries
People who can prove that they have sustained injuries due to defective airbags may be able to recover compensation for any or all of the following:
Related medical costs
Missed time at work
Potential loss of future wages
Both physical and emotional pain and suffering
Factors That Influence Airbag Settlement Amounts
How much money you will receive in an airbag lawsuit settlement is dependent on multiple factors. First, you’ll have to prove your claim that your injuries resulted from a malfunctioning airbag. Other determinants that will affect your settlement may be things like the severity of your injuries, medical bills, and whether or not you had any fault in the accident.
Proving your Claim
To prove that your airbag was defective, you’ll need to do your best to hang onto the airbag itself, as well as the inflation device and crash sensor. Speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to get advice about how best to hang onto these items rather than letting them be disposed of or handed over to an insurance company with the rest of your damaged car.
Strict Liability & Comparative Negligence
When liability exists without having to prove negligence, such as with a product liability claim, this is referred to as strict liability. With strict liability situations, there is no burden of proof, which can make things more straightforward.
In some states, however, comparative negligence may affect your settlement. Comparative negligence is the principle that the fault of each party involved in an accident depends on their individual contributions to the accident. Damages may be awarded according to each participant’s degree of fault, thus limiting how much the plaintiff may recover. In other words, in a state where comparative negligence comes into play, the amount of your settlement may be reduced if the accident was your fault.
The more severe your injuries are, the more medical care you are likely to need. The more medical care you need, the more your bills will add up. Factors such as the cost of doctor visits, surgical interventions, physical therapy, and prescription medications will be considered in your settlement. Other factors, such as lost wages from missing work for healing time and doctor appointments, will also be considered, as will the amount of physical and emotional pain and suffering you experience as a result of your injuries.
Average Airbag Settlement Amounts
An average settlement amount for airbag injuries does not exist. All cases are different, as the circumstances surrounding each accident vary. However, in recent years, there have been some well-known airbag-related class action lawsuits against large auto manufacturers in relation to the Takata airbag lawsuit. Information about these settlements can be found below.
In the United States v Takata lawsuit, Takata Corp., a company responsible for manufacturing airbags, was found guilty of supplying falsified and fraudulent information about the safety of their inflators. In their settlement, they agreed to set up a restitution fund of $125 million to be meted out amongst individuals who were hurt by their airbags and who had not already reached their own settlements with the company.
The following is a list of car manufacturers who have also reached settlements in relation to the Takata airbag case. It is important to note that these settlements will cover economic losses but not personal injury or wrongful death:
Honda will pay $605 million for 11 million automobiles
Toyota will pay $278.5 billion for 9.2 million automobiles
BMW will pay $131 million for 2.3 million automobiles
Nissan will pay $98 million for 4.4 million automobiles
Mazda will pay $75.8 million for 1.7 million automobiles
Subaru will pay $68.3 million for 2.6 million automobiles
More information on this can be found here.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Recover Compensation for Airbag Injuries
Though the idea of working with an attorney may seem daunting and expensive, the cost of not having an attorney represent you in a personal injury case may be far greater. Hiring a qualified professional who knows the letter of the law will save you time and bring you peace of mind by ensuring that all the appropriate steps are followed so that you don’t miss out on getting the compensation you need and deserve.
Lawsuits can be complicated. A good attorney will have the experience needed to efficiently and effectively navigate you through the entire process from beginning to end. They will:
File court paperwork in a timely manner
Pay related court and administrative fees
Take care of disbursements
Collect witness testimonies and affidavits
Negotiate your settlement
If unable to settle, represent you in a court trial
Handle appeals, if necessary
Most importantly, they will know how to effectively argue on your behalf when it comes to what is and isn’t acceptable under the law, supporting you through a difficult time by helping you get justice. If you have been in an accident and wish to speak to an expert lawyer, get in touch today.
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