Thousands of people are alive today because of seatbelts and airbags. These safety features save lives in traffic accidents. In 2012, seat belts saved 12,174 lives and frontal air bags saved 2,213 lives, estimates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If everyone who was involved in a fatal accident that year had been wearing their seat belt, another 3,031 lives could have been spared, too. However, some victims sustain either airbag injuries or seatbelt injuries in a car accident, especially if the device is defective.
Still, given the life-saving advantages of wearing seat belts and of driving cars equipped with air bags, the NHTSA encourages all drivers and passengers to use them each and every time they ride in a vehicle.
How might seatbelts cause injury?
Again, we cannot stress enough how important it is to wear a seatbelt every single time you are in a vehicle. This information is geared towards victims of accidents who sustained a seatbelt-related injury (especially if the belt was defective), not those deciding whether they should buckle up.
If the straps are overly tight, if the seatbelt malfunctions, or if there is some type of defect with the belt (e.g., poor design or a mistake made during manufacturing), then it is possible for the user to sustain an injury. This can also occur if the user does not wear seatbelt properly or position it correctly on the body.
Some of the seatbelt-related injuries that people have sustained in crashes include the following.
- Intra-abdominal trauma
- Pelvic injuries
- Organ damage (pancreas, bladder, kidney)
- Abdominal wall contusions
- Intestinal and bowel injuries
- Fractured ribs, sternum, clavicle
- Neck injuries
- Bruising on chest
Keep in mind that while a seatbelt may contribute to certain injuries, those injuries are likely much less severe than had the user not worn the seatbelt. As such, victims of car accidents who believe a seatbelt contributed to their injury may only have a liability claim against a seatbelt manufacturer if it was defective. We discuss this more later.
How might airbags cause injury?
When a vehicle is involved in a collision, if the sensors are triggered, the airbags will deploy to cushion the impact and prevent the driver or passenger from colliding with the hard structures within the vehicle. They are designed to deploy in a fraction of second, and can inflate as fast as 200 miles per hour. Colliding with an airbag is usually far better than with a steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, or side of a vehicle.
In some cases, though, the force of the airbag can cause harm. For example, small children may suffer severe injuries caused by airbags, which is why they should ride in the rear seat of the vehicle in an approved and age-appropriate safety seat.
Airbags that malfunction or that have manufacturing defects are a common cause of airbag injuries. Defective airbags may not deploy properly, deploy at inappropriate times, or fail to deploy at all upon collision. Alarmingly, some defective airbags involved in a massive worldwide Takata airbag recall send shrapnel into drivers upon deployment.
Various parts of the body are subjected to force when an airbag deploys, so there is a wide range of potential injuries. The following are examples of airbag-related injuries that some accident victims suffer.
- Facial trauma
- Whiplash and other soft tissue neck injuries
- Eye injuries
- Rib and lung injuries
- Hearing loss
- Concussion and other head injuries
Just as with seatbelts, many of these injuries are far less severe than the victim would have suffered if not for the airbag preventing them from striking the dashboard or windshield.
Who can I hold liable for my injury-related damages?
Liability for auto accidents can be complicated. If your seatbelt and airbags were functioning properly but you suffered injuries from them, you can include any associated damages in your accident claim against the at-fault driver. This includes medical exams, hospital bills, future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If however, the seatbelt or airbags were defective, you may be able to hold the manufacturer liable for your damages. In most cases, manufacturers can be strictly liable for victims’ damages if you and your attorney can prove that the safety feature was, in fact, defective. For example, victims injured by Takata airbags (and family member of victims involved in fatal accidents) have held the manufacturers liable for damages because they were able to show that the airbags were manufactured incorrectly.
Defective seatbelt and airbag claims and lawsuits might arise not only from manufacturing mistakes, but also from poor design and installation errors. In order to correctly determine which party is financially responsible for your injuries after an accident, have an attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC assess your case. We will investigate the cause of the accident and pinpoint which party (or parties) are liable for your damages.
Who can I speak to about my airbag or seatbelt injuries?
All in all, safety features like seatbelts and airbags provide massive benefit to vehicle occupants and save lives. However, should they cause harm, there are legal remedies for recovery from the at-fault driver who caused the wreck, or against the manufacturer if the device was defective.