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Airbag Accidents

Air bags have been legally required in the United States since 1998 (for passenger cars; since 1999, for SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans). They are recognized as safety features that work together with seat belts to protect victims from serious injury in a motor vehicle accident. All vehicles on the road today should have frontal air bags. Many vehicles are sold with both front and side air bags.

Aop vehicle defects

If you or a loved one has been harmed in an accident involving air bag failure, then please feel free to contact our offices for a free consultation.

How Air Bags Fail

In a crash, an electronic signal is sent within the airbag system to an inflator which produces a harmless gas that inflates the bag almost immediately (less than 1/20th of a second according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Sometimes, the speed of deployment alone can cause serious or fatal injury. Often, death or severe injury results because the air bag fails to fully deploy, or to deploy at all. There are defects in some air bags which cause the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

    Air Bag Recalls

    Air bags that are properly designed, manufactured, and installed in a motor vehicle can save lives. How? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) explains: “… [a]ir bags reduce the chance that your upper body or head will strike the vehicle's interior during a crash.” NHTSA confirms frontal airbags have been standard equipment for passenger cars, SUVs, pickups and vans for over two decades.

    Unfortunately, millions of air bags installed and relied upon by drivers and occupants of motor vehicles across the United States have proven to be defective and dangerous. These safety products are killing people instead of saving them.

    NHTSA tracks these dangers in its online database of Special Investigation Crash Reports where investigations into airbag failures are detailed by the federal agency. Any of these incidents is concerning; however, when there are widespread hazards arising out of a single air bag manufacturer, things become much more serious. Among them:

    1. 67,000,000 ARC Air Bag Inflators: 2023 Recall Fight

    In what some are calling a situation “echoing Takata,” NHTSA demanded in May 2023 that ARC Automotive of Knoxville, Tennessee issue a voluntary recall of 67 Million airbag inflators because of a likelihood the ARC airbag inflator will explode with such ferocity in a collision that the entire metal canister containing the airbag will blow up. The result is a violent, sudden discharge of shrapnel into the vehicle’s compartment which can be deadly.

    In an eerie coincidence, the estimated total of Takata air bag recalls, known as one of the largest recalls in history, is currently 67,000,000 according to NHTSA.

    NHTSA confirms that there have already been two deaths and seven serious bodily injuries as a result of these ARC air bag explosions.

    In 2023, the manufacturer did not agree to issuing its own recall. This leaves millions of people driving all kinds of motor vehicles who are at risk of death or catastrophic injury in a preventable accident that can easily be avoided with a replacement of the ARC air bag inflator.

    For more, read: “‘It becomes a bomb’: Company refuses to issue recall over millions of exploding airbags,” written by Justin Gray of WSB-TV and published by the Center for Auto Safety on May 22, 2023; and “Millions may be at risk from potentially explosive vehicle air bag inflators manufacturer refuses to recall,” published by CBS News on May 19, 2023.

    2. Takata Air Bag Recall

    In the Takata air bag recall, the air bags were bought from the Japanese manufacturer and placed in almost every make and model of vehicle sold in the United States. Toyota vehicles were among the first to be involved in Takata air bag accidents, but BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Subaru have also sold cars fitted with Takata air bags.

    Takata air bags can explode without warning. These defective air bags have been the cause of one of the largest and most infamous defective car part recalls in American history.

    The recalls surrounding Takata air bags continue: in 2018, for example, a “do not drive” advisory was issued for Ford and Mazda pickups because of dangerous, defective airbags needing replacement.

    In April 2019, the federal government’s investigation into defective air bags was enlarged to cover air bag control units manufactured by ZF-TRW. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its focus upon another 12,300,000 vehicles because of the possibility that defects in their ZF-TRW electrical system may prevent the air bag from deploying in a crash. Vehicles include those made by Fiat Chrysler; Honda; Hyundai; Kia; Mitsubishi; and Toyota.

    See, NHTSA ODI RESUME EA 19-001, "Air Bag ACU Electrical Overstress,” investigation opened on April 19, 2019.

    People have died and been seriously injured due to defective Takata air bags or air bag components, and it is expected there will be more victims of these dangerous air bags in the future. The threat continues.

    For instance, long after the Takata air bag danger was discovered, an Arizona resident named Armando Ortega was confirmed as the 16thAmerican victim of a Takata air bag failure, where the safety device can explode and sent debris or shrapnel into the vehicle’s occupants. For details, read “Honda says 16th U.S. death confirmed in air bag rupture,” written by David Shepardson and published by Reuters on March 29, 2019.

    In May 2023, the risk of an exploding Takata air bag killing someone remains. Five more victims died as a result of Takata air bag failures in 2022.

    On May 5, 2023, BMW issued a recall in conformity with a new “Do Not Drive” warning from NHTSA that also includes some older models manufactured by Acura, Ford, Honda, and Mazda. Read, “'Do not drive': BMW airbag recall impacts 90,000 vehicles with defective Takata parts,” published by USA Today on May 5, 2023.

    Defective Airbag Accident Claims

    There are a variety of ways that an air bag can fail and cause serious injury or death in a crash. An accident with only moderate force and impact can become deadly when an air bag fails and harms the occupants.

    Defective airbag systems fail during a crash when they:

    • Fail to deploy
    • Fail to deploy at the correct time of crash
    • Deploy unnecessarily
    • Deploy too slowly
    • Deploy with too much force.

    These problems may result from sensors, switches, control units, and codes that are defectively designed or manufactured. Injuries sustained in an air bag failure can include death as well as severe and permanent injuries including:

    • Abrasions and contusions
    • Burns
    • Fractures
    • Loss of sight
    • Loss of hearing
    • Spinal cord injuries
    • Traumatic brain injuries.

    Experienced Air Bag Attorneys

    Wigington Rumley Dunn & Blair LLP has extensive experience fighting for justice after victims have suffered serious injuries due to defective products like frontal or side air bags. For more details, see our case results discussion involving defective products and vehicle collisions in our Case Summaries and our Verdicts and Settlements.

    For more information regarding Airbag Accidents, please review our verdict and settlement history and read summaries of some of our past cases.