Time and time again, I hear my clients in Greater Atlanta tell me that their frontal airbag (airbags that come out of near the front dash) did not go off, deploy or activate upon impact in a collision. Consequently, they are curious as to whether or not there is a product defect or a product liability issue with the deficient or faulty airbag. I think it would surprise many motorists to find that conventional frontal airbags are not designed to deploy or work except in a frontal collision. In other words, most frontal airbags generally only work if your vehicle is involved in a front end crash which reaches a certain threshold level.
In the 1970s, General Motors first introduced Air Cushion Restraint Systems (ACRS), a precursor to the conventional airbag. For our purposes, we will focus on airbags that were designed, manufactured and installed from the 1990s and forward inasmuch as the federal government amended the regulations to require airbags in vehicles produced after April 1, 1989. In 1998, the federal government again amended the regulations again to require dual front airbags. A simple graph shows that injuries are significantly reduced in vehicles equipped with airbags and seatbelts versus seatbelts alone.
Generally, airbags from the 1990s deploy only if the threshold impact of the crash is above 14 mph. And, these airbags may not deploy where the threshold impact is less than 8 mph. Whether or not the airbag will deploy between these two speeds is variable and depends on the vehicle and the facts of the specific collision.
Frontal airbags should deploy in crashes involving the front bumper, the front corners of the front bumper, frontal impacts and impacts where your vehicle travels under the back or side of a truck. If the airbag fails to activate in these situations and you are injured, then you may have a product liability case against the manufacturer.
In vehicles outfitted with side airbags, these airbags should generally activate toward the side of the vehicle where the impact occurs. Side curtain “rollover” bags should generally activate when the vehicle rolls over to prevent passengers from being ejected from the vehicle or sustaining head or neck injuries.
Generally, the conventional frontal airbag will not deploy in low impact minor front end collisions, minor impacts to the underside of the vehicle, during operation of the vehicle through or over rough terrain, impacts with animals, or minor impacts with parking blocks or street curbs. Sometimes an airbag with a low threshold will activate in a low speed impact and cause injury. In such circumstances, the motorist or passenger may not have been injured but for the deployment of the airbag.
On occasion, there are situations where an airbag deploys at excessive speeds of travel. Or airbags can deploy when there is no collision or impact due to negligent design or electrical problems with the airbag system. These unexpected deployments can cause serious head, brain, eye or neck injuries. Children who are located in the front passenger seat are particularly disposed to very severe injuries or death from such airbags. Typically, small children should be located as far away from an airbag as possible and in a seated upright position.
In a majority of cases where an airbag failed to deploy, a defect prevented the crash sensors from analyzing and detecting the collision in a proper and timely fashion. This unfortunate situation can be due to the threshold not being set correctly due to inadequate testing, a software flaw that prevented a crash sensor from working, a sparing use of crash sensors (by the automobile manufacturer to save money) to accurately provide a response to the crash or the electronic signal does not reach the airbag modules (from cut wires or defective air bag clock spring) allowing them to deploy.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting airbag cases with severe injuries throughout Georgia. If you or a loved on has been injured as the result of a possible airbag defect or malfunction, then please contact an experienced car accident attorney for a free consultation.