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You may have many questions when you are involved in a car wreck, we are here to help! We have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions about airbag deployment injuries.

What Types of Injuries Can Be Caused by Airbag Deployment?

Any number of injuries may be caused by airbag deployment, especially if due to a defective airbag issue, like an explosive deployment. Some reported injuries due to airbags include:

  • Facial injuries
  • Cuts and burns
  • Lacerations
  • Bone fractures
  • Hand and arm injuries
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Neck injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Concussion
  • Lung irritation
What Happens to Your Body When an Airbag Deploys?

With frontal airbags, they usually hit your face first in the event of a collision. While this stops you from hitting the steering wheel or dashboard, or going through the windshield, it can also cause you injury.

In addition, the combustion from the deployment can cause irritation to your eyes and lungs. It may also injure your eye, cause you a concussion, or even lead to temporary or permanent blindness.

Airbags deploy so fast that the impact of the airbag on your bare skin, or causing your clothes to rub so harshly against your skin, can cause a burn similar to road rash or rug burn.

While rare, the severe impact of an airbag on your abdomen could cause internal bleeding, bruising, tissue damage, or even organ damage.

Overall, the airbag may halt a fatal injury, but it may also lead to serious injuries, some of which can have lasting effects.

At What Speed Do Airbags Deploy in a Car Crash?

Most frontal airbags deploy when a vehicle crash occurs that is equivalent to the car running into a rigid wall at a speed of 10-12 mph, for occupants not wearing their seat belts. When occupants are properly restrained, the deployment speed threshold is about 16 mph.

The deployment speed threshold may be as low as 8 mph or as high as 18 mph, and airbags typically go off within 10-20 milliseconds of the crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Can an Airbag Hurt Your Chest?

An airbag can cause pain in your chest when it deploys, as well as to your face, head, neck, arms, and even torso. Many people experience burn injuries due to the combustion reaction of the airbag when it deploys. You may also experience bruising and soreness, which typically is at its worst in the first 24-48 hours, and mostly subsides after about 72 hours.

How Many People Have Died From Defective Airbags?

National crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that between the years of 1990 and 2008, approximately 290 people died from airbag injuries (not related to airbag defects).

More recently, 24 people were fatally injured and 300 were injured due to defective airbags which would explosively deploy. These frontal airbags were installed in more than 41.6 million vehicles nationwide, by more than 19 vehicle manufacturers.

Despite fatalities, airbag manufacturers and the Department of Transportation stress that defective explosions are rare, and airbags are estimated to have saved more than 50,000 lives between 1987 and 2017.

Do Airbags Really Save Lives?

In general, airbags truly can save lives. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes (such as head-on collisions) by 29 percent, and front-seat passengers ages 13 and above by 32 percent.

In many cases, airbags cause injuries only when vehicle occupants hit by the airbag are unrestrained. They may also injure a person if they are not old enough or physically developed enough to take the impact of the airbag (i.e. small children).

Airbag deployments are rarely fatal. However, if you or a loved one has been injured by an airbag, you may have legal options.

Were you or a loved one hurt by an airbag during an auto accident? Learn your legal options when you talk with a car accident lawyer. Depending on how and why the airbag deployed, as well as other factors, you may be able to get compensation to cover medical bills and other costs from the accident.

Don’t let insurance companies pressure you into accepting a settlement offer that is much lower than you deserve for the harm you suffered. Speak to personal injury lawyers during a free consultation, and find out what airbag deployment personal injury lawyers can do for you.

Airbag Deployment Injury Lawyers

LegalFinders: Find the Best Airbag  Deployment Injury Attorneys Near You

If you were injured due to an airbag deployment, a defective airbag issue, or the failure of an airbag to inflate, you may be able to seek compensation from the liable party. But, who is the liable party in an airbag injury case? This depends on a few factors. First, how the airbag injury occurred is important.

That is, if the airbag properly deployed during a self-crash, i.e. you crashed into another vehicle, then you may be liable for your own injuries. Yet if someone else hit you and caused you to become injured by your airbag due to the crash, the negligent driver is likely the liable party. This means you could file an injury claim against them for damages.

In contrast, if there is an airbag failure in your vehicle due to faulty airbags installed by the manufacturer, and you become injured as a result, the vehicle manufacturer and/or airbag manufacturer may be held liable as a result. This may be true regardless of how or why the crash occurred.

Because airbags are meant to protect vehicle occupants during one of the most dangerous scenarios possible, the very nature of airbag deployment, which occurs at impossible speeds, means some minor injuries may be unavoidable.

However, if you have experienced eye injuries, brain injuries, or other airbag accident injuries, you may have a personal injury case.


Causes of Airbag Deployment

The most straightforward explanation for an airbag deployment is a vehicle accident — or a collision of some kind that creates an impact great enough to lead to the deployment of airbags.

In a vehicle with properly working airbags, the airbags will only deploy if the vehicle’s crash sensors accurately detect the correct speed, braking level, and impact of the crash. The airbag system sends a signal to the airbag module — letting it know it should deploy.

That is, airbags work by inflating once the crash sensors are tipped. The inflation is caused by a chemical reaction, usually the release of a gas. Airbag deployment typically takes less than 1/20th of a second. The airbags deflate once they make impact with the driver or passenger.

Faulty airbags are rare, but they do happen, and generally result from a faulty sensor or other faulty part in the airbag system. Airbags should be replaced after they have deployed. When they aren’t replaced, they may not deploy properly in the event of a car crash, which could lead to devastating results for the accident victims.


Types of Car Accidents That May Cause an Airbag to Deploy

In general, frontal airbags may deploy during any type of collision that is the equivalent of your vehicle hitting a rigid wall at 10-12 miles per hour (mph). Different types of airbags may deploy at different speeds, but the threshold is low for all airbags, since these safety devices are designed to keep you from making contact with the vehicle and suffering serious injuries.

Side airbags may only deploy during a side impact crash, for example. Front airbags may deploy during nearly any type of crash, from a t-bone accident to a head-on collision or rear-end collision, but head-protecting side airbags, side airbags, and even knee airbags may only deploy with certain types of motor vehicle accidents.

If a side airbag or frontal airbag deployed when it shouldn’t have and caused you or your family member injury, it may help to speak with a personal injury attorney to learn your legal options.


Injuries That May Result From Airbag Deployment

There are no limits to the types of injuries you may experience due to an airbag deployment or a faulty airbag. The chest, face, neck, head, and arms tend to be most at risk for airbag injuries, since the upper portion of the body receives the impact. Some injuries which airbag deployment injury victims may experience include:

  • Eye injuries: Cuts or tears, temporary blindness, permanent blindness
  • Hand injuries: Sprained or strained fingers or wrists, broken fingers or wrists
  • Chest injuries: Bruising, abrasions, pain, or broken ribs
  • Head injuries: Concussions, traumatic brain injury, brain swelling
  • Face injuries: Bone fractures, cuts, burns, scarring or disfigurement
  • Neck injuries: Broken neck, whiplash
  • Arm injuries: Bone fracture, “rug burn” type of burns, bruising
  • Lung injuries: Irritation of the lungs, temporary difficulty breathing, onset of asthma attack
  • Spinal injuries: Strains, broken bones
  • Internal injuries: Damage to internal organs, internal bleeding, soft tissue damage
  • Hearing injuries: Temporary or permanent hearing loss

Airbag Statistics in the U.S.

The first prototype for the modern airbags currently in use in motor vehicles was patented in 1953 in Pennsylvania, according to Consumer Affairs.

Since then, airbags have come a long way — with estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claiming airbags have saved the lives of more than 50,000 people from 1987 to 2017 alone. Other important statistics regarding airbags in the United States include:

People's lives saved due to airbags


ages 13 and older in 2017, according to the NHTSA

Frontal airbags

in all passenger cars

have been required since 1998

Frontal airbags

in all SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans

have been required since 1999

Using a proper restraint system

seat belt

is also important to avoiding airbag injury

Being too close to the steering wheel or dashboard

top 1 cause

of airbag injuries, which is why drivers are encouraged to stay far back from the steering wheel

Takata airbag systems installed

in tens of millions of vehicles

which proved to be faulty, as the airbags could explode, leading to a *mass recall

*The recall lasted from 2016 to 2019 and resulted in 24 deaths and more than 300 injuries as of 2021.


Legal Options for Airbag Injury Victims

Can you file a personal injury claim for an airbag injury? This depends on a few factors. First, for an airbag injury to qualify for a personal injury case, the injury has to have been caused by the airbag deployment — not by the collision or the collision’s impact.

While the cause of your injuries may be apparent to you, it may be difficult to prove they were caused by the airbag, specifically. Further, the defendant’s personal injury lawyer may work to prove that your injuries could have been prevented by avoiding the crash altogether.

This is why it’s important to work with a reputable law firm, where you can bring on an experienced airbag injury lawyer. Among so many other tasks, your lawyer will help you prove how your injuries were caused by the airbag.

If it’s a matter of a defective safety feature within the airbag, your lawyer can help you begin a product liability case against the airbag manufacturer or vehicle manufacturer. If a vehicle seller knew the airbag had been used and failed to replace it, you may be able to begin a personal injury lawsuit against the vehicle retailer.

Your attorney can help you identify who can be held liable for your injuries, whether it’s the person who caused the accident, who serviced your vehicle, assembled your vehicle, or someone else. Then, your car accident lawyer will work aggressively to help you file your claim and seek maximum compensation for your injuries.


LegalFinders Can Help You Find a Top Airbag Injury Lawyer in Your Area

Whether you are facing emotional pain and suffering after an airbag injury, or lost a loved one due to a defective airbag and want to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf, LegalFinders may be able to help.

We can connect you to a law office near you with highly trained personal injury lawyers who are ready to get to work on your case. During a free case evaluation, they can review the details of the accident to help you seek fair compensation for an airbag injury. Learn more today. Contact us now for a free initial consultation to begin.


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Published: 22 July 2022


Consumer Affairs — A Short History of The Airbag

Consumer Reports — Takata Airbag Recall: Everything You Need to Know

Detroit Free Press — Despite deaths, injuries and recalls, air bags still save lives

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — Airbags

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — Air Bags