Airbags Can Cause Injury: Here’s How

Airbag technology has been in existence since at least the 1950s, but their use did not proliferate until the 1980s and into the 1990s. By September 1, 1998, all cars and light trucks sold in the United States were required to be equipped with airbags in the front compartment for both driver and passenger. Since that time, airbags have proliferated throughout the vehicle from the front to side impact airbags for side collisions. While airbags have increased overall survival in car accidents when used in conjunction with properly used seat belts, they come with a somewhat steep price in the form of many different injuries, as a car accident lawyer West Palm Beach FL trusts can attest.

The injuries you can sustain from an airbag vary depending upon, among other things, where you are sitting in the vehicle, the location of the airbag that is deployed, the speed of the crash, and whether you are wearing a seatbelt or not. If you are a driver, the airbag that will likely deploy is the one embedded in the steering wheel which can deploy at an mind-boggling 200 mph and produce 2000 pounds (literally a ton) of force.  It’s not surprising then, that the distance from your body to the steering wheel at the time of deployment can either mitigate or increase damages from airbag deployment. This is why the official rule of thumb for drivers is sit so that there is at least 10 inches of space between the center of the driver’s breastbone and the steering wheel at any given time.

With driver side airbags, the most likely locations of injuries will be the face and chest. These injuries can range from broken bones in the face, broken bones in the chest, and damage to eyes, either from particulate matter or the sheer force of the airbag. Depending upon how close the driver is to the bag at the time of deployment, they can also sustain internal injuries such as internal bleeding, concussions, and bruising.

Both drivers and passengers can be susceptible to neck injuries again depending upon how close they were positioned to the airbag when it deployed. Burns are also a distinct possibility, given the speed with which the bag will deploy and again depends upon how close the person is sitting to the bag when it deploys. Arms and faces are particularly vulnerable to these injuries. More remote, but still very possible, injuries include breathing difficulties such as asthma due to the chemicals that are released when the bag is deployed, retinal detachment, aortic transection, cardiac rupture, cervical spine fractures, and hearing loss.

Side-impact airbags are a relatively new addition to the airbag family and are designed to protect in lateral collisions. They come in a variety of combinations to protect only torso or torsos and heads. Passengers and even drivers who are impacted by side airbag deployment can suffer many of the same traumas and injuries as those in front-impact collisions. However, given that the direction of the force changes from head-on to sideways, especially in the passenger compartment, there is a much larger area that must be protected with deployment. This can correspond to increased injuries from the head and the torso in addition to the other possible airbag injuries.

Thanks to contributors from the Law Office of Eric H. Luckman, P.A. for their insight into airbag-related injury.