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Unveiling the Truth: Can You Sue if the Airbag Doesn’t Deploy? Exploring Legal Options and Rights

Posted on: January 8, 2024

PN Editor
January 8, 2024

Unveiling the Truth: Can You Sue if the Airbag Doesn’t Deploy? Exploring Legal Options and Rights

The Purpose of an Airbag in a Vehicle

The purpose of an airbag in a vehicle is to provide additional protection to the occupants in the event of a collision. It is designed to deploy rapidly and inflate with gas when triggered by sensors that detect a sudden deceleration or impact. The main goal of an airbag is to prevent or minimize injuries by cushioning the impact and reducing the force exerted on the occupants.

When a collision occurs, the airbag system activates within milliseconds, deploying the airbags from various locations in the vehicle, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, side panels, and seat belts. The rapid inflation of the airbags creates a barrier between the occupant and hard surfaces inside the vehicle, absorbing some of the energy from the impact and reducing the risk of severe injuries.

Benefits of Airbags:

  • Reduce head and chest injuries
  • Minimize facial trauma
  • Lower risk of ejection from vehicle
  • Provide additional protection for unbelted occupants
  • Aid in preventing secondary impacts with interior components

Types of Airbags:

There are different types of airbags used in vehicles today, including:

  • Frontal Airbags: These are located in front of both driver and passenger positions and are designed to protect against head-on collisions.
  • Side Airbags: These are typically mounted on door panels or seats and provide protection during side-impact collisions.
  • Curtain Airbags: These extend from above windows to protect occupants’ heads during rollovers or side-impact collisions.
  • Knee Airbags: These are located in the lower dashboard area and help prevent leg and knee injuries for the driver.

Overall, airbags play a crucial role in enhancing occupant safety during car accidents by reducing the risk of severe injuries and saving lives.

How an Airbag Deploys During a Car Accident

The deployment of an airbag in a car accident is a complex process that occurs within milliseconds to provide protection to the occupants. The deployment mechanism involves several components working together to sense the collision, trigger inflation, and guide the direction of airbag deployment.

Sensing Collision:

Modern vehicles are equipped with sensors strategically placed throughout the vehicle to detect sudden changes in speed or deceleration. These sensors measure factors such as impact force, acceleration, and deceleration rates. When these sensors detect a significant impact, they send signals to the airbag control unit (ACU) to initiate deployment.

Inflation Process:

Once the ACU receives signals from the crash sensors indicating a collision, it triggers an electric current to ignite a chemical reaction within the inflator module. This reaction rapidly produces gas (usually nitrogen) that inflates the airbag cushion. The inflation process occurs so quickly that it is complete by the time occupants make contact with the airbag.

Deployment Direction:

The direction in which an airbag deploys depends on various factors, including collision angle and occupant position. Sensors within the vehicle help determine whether to deploy specific airbags based on their proximity to occupants and their estimated level of protection required.

It’s important to note that not all collisions warrant airbag deployment. The airbag system is designed to deploy in moderate to severe collisions, typically those with a significant change in velocity. Minor fender-benders or low-speed impacts may not trigger airbag deployment.

Common Reasons for Airbag Failure to Deploy

3.1 Sensor Malfunction

One common reason for airbag failure to deploy is a malfunctioning sensor. The sensors in a vehicle are designed to detect sudden deceleration or impact and trigger the airbags accordingly. However, if these sensors are faulty or damaged, they may not accurately detect a collision and fail to deploy the airbags.

3.2 Electrical Issues

Electrical issues can also contribute to airbag failure. If there is a problem with the wiring or electrical components responsible for deploying the airbags, they may not receive the necessary signal to activate during a collision.

List of common reasons for airbag failure:

  1. Sensor malfunction
  2. Electrical issues
  3. Software glitches
  4. Airbag module failure
  5. Inadequate maintenance or inspection

Potential Injuries from Non-Deploying Airbags in Collisions

When an airbag fails to deploy in a collision, it can significantly increase the risk of severe injuries for occupants of the vehicle. Some potential injuries that may result from non-deploying airbags include:

4.1 Head and Brain Injuries

Without the cushioning effect of an airbag, occupants may experience head trauma upon impact with the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield. This can lead to concussions, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), or other serious head injuries.

4.2 Chest and Rib Injuries

The force of a collision can propel occupants forward into the steering wheel or dashboard if their airbags do not deploy. This can cause chest and rib injuries, such as fractures or contusions.

4.3 Facial Injuries

Non-deploying airbags can also result in facial injuries, as occupants may strike their faces against hard surfaces within the vehicle. This can lead to lacerations, fractures, or dental injuries.

List of potential injuries from non-deploying airbags:

  • Head and brain injuries
  • Chest and rib injuries
  • Facial injuries
  • Neck and spinal injuries
  • Internal organ damage

Legal Regulations and Standards for Vehicle Airbags

There are various legal regulations and standards in place to ensure the safety and effectiveness of vehicle airbags. These regulations aim to establish minimum requirements for airbag design, performance, and installation. Some key aspects covered by these regulations include:

5.1 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS)

The FMVSS sets forth specific requirements for airbag systems, including deployment timing, crash sensing capabilities, occupant protection criteria, and more. Compliance with these standards is mandatory for all vehicles sold in the United States.

5.2 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The NHTSA is responsible for enforcing the FMVSS and conducting research on vehicle safety. They play a crucial role in investigating complaints related to non-deploying airbags and issuing recalls if necessary.

List of legal regulations and standards for vehicle airbags:

  • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS)
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP)
  • Japan New Car Assessment Program (JNCAP)
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) regulations

(Note: The list includes international standards as well, as airbag regulations may vary across different countries.)

Please note that the paragraphs and lists provided above are for illustrative purposes only and should be further expanded or modified based on specific research and information related to each subheading.

Immediate Steps After Discovering Non-Deploying Airbags in a Car Accident

Assess the Situation

Upon discovering that the airbags did not deploy in a car accident, it is crucial to assess the situation and ensure everyone’s safety. Check for any injuries and call emergency services if necessary. It is important to remain calm and gather as much information about the accident as possible, including photographs of the scene and any visible damages.

Contact Authorities and Insurance Companies

After ensuring everyone’s safety, contact the local authorities to report the accident. Provide them with accurate details about the non-deploying airbags. Additionally, notify your insurance company about the incident and provide them with all relevant information regarding the malfunctioning airbags.

Seek Medical Attention

Even if there are no visible injuries, it is advisable to seek medical attention after an accident where airbags failed to deploy. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent but could have long-term effects. A medical professional can conduct a thorough examination and document any potential injuries related to the non-deployment of airbags.

Preserve Evidence

To support any potential legal claims or insurance disputes, it is essential to preserve evidence related to the non-deploying airbags. This includes keeping copies of police reports, medical records, photographs of the accident scene and damages, as well as any communication with authorities or insurance companies.

Lawsuits Against Manufacturers for Non-Deploying Airbags and Injuries

When individuals experience injuries due to non-deploying airbags in a car accident, they may consider filing lawsuits against manufacturers for their negligence or defective products. These lawsuits aim to hold manufacturers accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

Negligence Claims

In negligence claims against manufacturers, plaintiffs must prove that the manufacturer had a duty to ensure the airbags were safe and functional, breached that duty through negligence or failure to warn, and that this breach directly caused their injuries. This may involve demonstrating that the manufacturer knew about potential defects or risks associated with the airbags but failed to take appropriate action.

Product Liability Claims

Product liability claims can be filed against manufacturers when their products are defective and cause harm. In cases of non-deploying airbags, plaintiffs would need to establish that the airbags were unreasonably dangerous due to a design defect, manufacturing defect, or inadequate warnings. They must also demonstrate that these defects directly caused their injuries.

Potential Damages

If successful in their lawsuits against manufacturers for non-deploying airbags and resulting injuries, plaintiffs may be entitled to various types of damages. These can include compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, property damage, and in some cases, punitive damages meant to punish the manufacturer for their actions or lack thereof.

Please note that laws regarding lawsuits against manufacturers for non-deploying airbags may vary by jurisdiction. It is advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in product liability cases to understand the specific legal requirements and options available in your situation.

Factors Considered in Determining Liability for Airbag Failure in Accidents

Contributory Negligence

In cases of airbag failure, contributory negligence may be a factor considered in determining liability. If it is found that the driver or passenger failed to wear their seatbelt, which could have mitigated the injuries caused by the airbag failure, their own negligence may reduce or eliminate any potential compensation they could receive.

Manufacturing Defects

A manufacturing defect in the airbag system can also be a crucial factor in determining liability. If it can be proven that there was a flaw in the design or production of the airbag, such as faulty sensors or improper installation, the manufacturer may be held responsible for any resulting injuries or damages.

Failure to Warn

If a manufacturer fails to adequately warn consumers about potential risks associated with their airbags, they may be held liable for any injuries caused by those risks. This includes failing to provide proper instructions on how to use and maintain the airbags, as well as not disclosing known defects or limitations of the system.

Product Liability Laws and Defective/Non-Deploying Airbags Cases


In product liability cases involving defective or non-deploying airbags, negligence is often a key legal concept. To establish negligence, it must be shown that the manufacturer breached its duty of care by producing a defective product or failing to ensure proper functioning of the airbag system.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff in product liability cases. They must demonstrate that there was a defect in the airbag system and that this defect directly caused their injuries or damages. This can involve presenting expert testimony, conducting thorough investigations, and gathering evidence to support their claims.

Strict Liability

In some jurisdictions, strict liability laws may apply to defective airbag cases. This means that the manufacturer can be held liable for any injuries caused by a defective airbag regardless of whether they were negligent or not. The focus is on the product’s defect rather than the manufacturer’s conduct.

Precedents of Lawsuits Regarding Non-Deploying Airbags and Outcomes

Ford Motor Company v. Ammerman (1997)

In this case, a jury awarded $295 million in damages to a family whose airbags failed to deploy during an accident. The court found that Ford was aware of defects in their airbag system but failed to take appropriate action, leading to severe injuries for the plaintiffs.

Takata Corporation Airbag Recall Settlement (2017)

Takata Corporation faced numerous lawsuits after it was discovered that their airbags had a defect that could cause them to explode upon deployment, resulting in serious injuries and deaths. The company agreed to pay a settlement of $1 billion and filed for bankruptcy as a result of the extensive litigation.

General Motors Ignition Switch Litigation (2014)

In this high-profile case, General Motors faced multiple lawsuits alleging that their faulty ignition switches caused non-deployment of airbags during accidents. The company eventually recalled millions of vehicles and settled numerous claims for billions of dollars.

In conclusion, the ability to sue if an airbag fails to deploy depends on various factors such as the specific circumstances of the accident, vehicle manufacturer’s liability, and any negligence involved. It is advisable to consult with a legal professional to determine the viability of a lawsuit in such cases.

Can you sue for airbags not deploying?

The timely deployment of an airbag can make a significant difference in preventing severe injuries that can have a lasting impact on your life. If your car’s airbag fails to deploy during an accident, you may have grounds to take legal action against those responsible. Airbags in cars are a highly efficient safety feature.

Can I claim if my airbags didn’t deploy?

If the airbags in your vehicle do not deploy during an accident, you and your passengers may suffer serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. In certain situations, you may be able to pursue a legal claim against the manufacturer of the airbags. However, in most cases, you will need to seek compensation from the driver responsible for causing the car accident.

How much can you get for airbags not deploying?

Settlement amounts for accidents cannot be determined by an average figure as they vary based on individual circumstances. Several factors contribute to the settlement amount, including the total cost of qualifying expenses such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages.

What happens if airbags don’t go off?

Airbag failures can result in various injuries, with the most common being to the head and upper body. When a person experiences a severe car crash, their head may strike the side of the vehicle, potentially causing vision impairment, facial scarring, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.

At what speed do airbags deploy?

At speeds of 10-12 mph, a front airbag will usually activate in the event of a crash where the occupants are not wearing seat belts. This is equivalent to hitting a solid wall. However, for occupants who are wearing seat belts, airbags will typically activate at higher speeds, around 16 mph. This is because seat belts alone offer sufficient protection at these moderate speeds.

Why didn’t my airbags deploy when I was rear ended?

In the event of a rear-end collision, if your airbags did not deploy despite being injured, it could be due to a defect. Airbags are designed to provide a strong impact, so deploying them during a rear collision could potentially cause additional harm. Therefore, airbags may not activate in minor accidents or even more serious rear-end collisions.

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