Malfunctioning airbags have been an increasing issue for car drivers. Unfortunately, people have been seriously injured and some have died because of airbags in some Kia and Hyundai vehicles not deploying. There have been reports of problems in 2011 Hyundai Sonata cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Fortes. Both car manufacturers have issued recalls.
Airbag failures are not a new issue. Takata airbags are currently involved in the largest recall in United States history. Takata has made over 50 million devices for 37 million vehicles, most of which are still on the road today. These airbags can malfunction, by exploding and shooting shrapnel around the vehicle, which can cause serious injuries. At least 15 people have died in the United States, and another 278 people have been injured.
Takata has resolved a recent lawsuit by agreeing to pay $650 million. Other airbag companies have paid over $1 billion in settlements. Given these recent recall announcements from Kia and Hyundai, the attorneys at KBA expect to see suits filed soon. We are currently investigating both manufacturers to advance claims for injured clients and to recover compensation for serious injuries or death.
How do airbags cause injuries?
There are several ways airbags can cause injuries. Here are some examples:
• Airbag deployment failure: Airbags may not deploy when they are needed. People can be seriously injured when the airbag does not protect their bodies during an accident.
• Unnecessary deployment: Airbags should not deploy in every situation. Minor collisions do not require the airbag to deploy. When airbags deploy, it is a gaseous release and serious force is involved. Airbags can actually injure people if they deploy suddenly when not anticipated or needed.
• Mid-sized airbags: If an airbag inflates too much or too little it can cause or contribute to injuries. When there is too much inflation, it can hit the driver or passenger violently causing an injury like a concussion or serious bruising. If an airbag was not properly designed or put together, it can inflate incorrectly and not provide the intended protection thereby exposing occupants to injuries from the inside of the vehicle.
• Incorrect positioning: Airbags are supposed to be positioned in and inflate in very particular ways. Serious injuries can arise from mistakes in either manner.
• Electrical failures: Misfiring or failing to fire electrical currents can cause premature, unnecessary, or non-deployments.
• Reconnect issues: Repairs on vehicles may involve disconnecting vital components. Failing to reconnect necessary units can cause airbag failures.
There are many different kinds of claims that can be associated with faulty airbags, including negligence, manufacturing defect, and design defect claims. Negligence occurs when a repair or design fails to be executed correctly. One example is that the airbag manufacturer designed the airbag to deploy with so much force it can cause the airbag to strike the occupant’s violently, causing trauma.
Design defect claims are generally brought under strict liability theories. Those legal causes of action explore some of the same issues, but the law does not care about the manufacturers’ conduct. A jury is not asked to consider whether the conduct was reasonable or not. Instead, the jury hears testimony from experts – typically engineers– about whether the design involved unreasonably dangerous risks. Often times, plaintiffs present engineers who testify that there was a safer alternative design available.
For example, an airbag designed to inflate upward instead of toward an occupant may be safer and reduce the likelihood of hitting someone in the face with too much force. These are just some of the claims attorneys bring to obtain a recovery for people who suffer serious injuries or who lose someone to death caused by airbags.
What kinds of injuries can airbags cause?
A dangerous airbag can cause several kinds of injuries, including:
• Broken bones
• Cuts or lacerations
• Brian injuries like a concussion or TBI (traumatic brain injuries)
• Neck and spinal cord injuries (could even be paralysis)
• Hearing loss
Injuries from a motor vehicle collision are not always due to a manufacturer issue. Repair shops may also be at fault. Attorneys evaluate various potential defendants and claims to bring when they investigate an incident involving serious injuries or death. The attorneys at KBA take pride in exploring options with their clients and are ready to help.