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Why Do Some People Get Injured by Airbags?

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Vehicle airbags are designed to save lives and minimize injuries in auto collisions. Airbags are designed to be a barrier between the driver or passenger and the vehicle. While some people are harmed by the airbag, it often saves their lives or prevents more serious injuries. CarandDriver.com states, "Airbags are hard enough to effectively lengthen the time of impact between you and automotive interior components. It's basic physics. The more time you take to slow a body (or head) in motion, the smaller the impact force. The airbag inflates and then immediately deflates as you impact it, decelerating you (relatively) slowly." In just 2012 alone, airbags saved some 2,213 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA. NHTSA also states about 2,000 lives a year are saved because of federal legislation mandating frontal airbags. However, not all car accident victims are so lucky. Airbags are also known to cause mild to serious bodily injury. So, why do some people get injured by airbag?

Why do Some People get Injured by Airbags?

Some drivers and passengers are injured by airbags simply because of improper use of seatbelts like using only the lap belt, but not the shoulder harness; sitting in an incorrect position in the car, such as sitting too closely to the steering wheel; or simply because of physics and chemistry. Shorter drivers naturally sit closer to the dashboard than taller drivers do. Children are particularly susceptible to injury or even death from frontal airbags because the safety system is not designed for youngsters. It's important for any child to ride in the back seat, properly wear both the lap belt and shoulder harness, and for smaller kids, and always ride in properly-fitted child car seat suited for the child's weight. Experts have concluded side airbags are safe for children riding in the back.

Airbags are constructed from stretchable fabric materials, which are packed tightly into vehicles. The locations are typically in the dashboard, but also, can be installed in the interior sides. Sensors detect and deploy airbags when a car is involved in a roadway collision. The maximum deployment rate is 200 miles per hour. At this speed, an airbag inflates in 1/13 of a second or 25 or 50 milliseconds, which is quicker than the blink of a human eye.

This ultra-quick deployment a done with sodium azide, or NaN3, the core chemical component, along with nitrogen, according to Scientific American. Unfortunately, this incredible speed and chemical combination can create a dangerous situation for some and is why drivers and passengers are sometimes injured by airbags.

Unfortunately, sometimes airbags are recalled and there is currently a mass recall on vehicles in the United States for defective airbags made by Takata. Consumerreports.org writes, "Vehicles made by 19 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver's side or passenger's side, or both in what NHTSA has called "the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history." The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015. Some of those airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or even killing car occupants." Go to safecar.gov to look up your vehicle and find out if it's impacted by the recall. There are six common airbag injuries:

  • Eye injuries. The face is one of the most commonly injured body parts from vehicle airbags. Because you are seated directly behind the steering wheel or near the dashboard, your face is exposed always. As a result, eyes are injured by impact to the face or chemical exposure.
  • Mouth injuries. Your jaw is also at risk when an airbag inflates, socking you right in the mouth like a professional boxer. Since these safety devices deploy with such speed, the force of impact can cause injuries to the lips, teeth, and tongue.
  • Nose injuries. Of course, your nose is another vulnerable part of your face. Since your nose protrudes from your face and airbags deploy straight out, injuries to the nose do happen. Injuries can be as mild as a small cut or bruise or as serious as a broken nose.
  • Chest injuries. The chest is also a very common body part to sustain airbag injury. The absolute force strikes the chest, pushing the body back against the seat. This sudden and powerful contact can cause injuries to the chest. Additionally, airbags can cause internal injuries, which are not visible.
  • Burn injuries. Another common airbag injury is caused by the chemical components of the safety device. Since sodium azide and nitrogen are used in airbags, along with the incredible speed, abrasions and burns injure drivers and passengers alike.
  • Broken bones. The entire upper half of your body is at risk for coming into contact with a vehicle airbag. Here again, the velocity of deployment can cause broken bones, in the face, in the chest, and even the arms and hands.

If you or a loved one has been in a motor vehicle accident and injured by an airbag, you should talk with an attorney immediately. Contact Vititoe Law Group for a free case evaluation and to learn about your legal rights. There are time limits to filing a claim so it's important to act quickly.

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