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Airbag Injuries: Balancing Safety and Risk

Airbag Injuries: Balancing Safety and Risk

Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of mortality in the United States, and at Buttafuoco & Associates we’re no strangers to the fact that the roads in our home state of New Jersey can be especially unsafe. According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic accidents accounted for 42,795 fatalities in 2023. While that is a large number of accidents, it would be much higher if it weren’t for the introduction of required airbags; in fact, experts estimate that airbags have saved over 50,000 lives since their widespread adoption in the late 80s.

Still, our Northern New Jersey car accident lawyers remind us that airbags carry with them their own risks of injury. It is imperative that airbags be functioning and used properly: otherwise they may become dangerous. In this article, we’ll discuss the spectrum of injuries that can be caused by airbags, steps you can take to make sure airbags protect you instead of harm you, and how a car accident lawyer serving Northern New Jersey can help you if you do suffer an airbag injury.

Airbag Injury Overview

An analysis of data from 1980 to 1994 showed 618 injuries due to airbags, primarily affecting the face (42%), upper limbs (33%), and chest (9.6%). Notably, 96% of these injuries were categorized as minor. This suggests that while airbags may cause injuries, we must consider them in the context of the more severe injuries they prevent. In other words, it’s possible that airbags may have prevented something much worse.

A paper titled “Effectiveness of Airbag Restraints in Frontal Crashes” demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in serious injuries in airbag-equipped cars in the UK and Germany. Interestingly, the presence of airbags seemed to alter the pattern of injury, leading to a higher incidence of upper limb injuries and fewer head and neck injuries.

According to research appearing in the Emergency Medicine Journal, there are reports of head and neck injuries, including facial trauma, temporomandibular joint injury, decapitation, cervical spine fractures, and eye injuries–all resulting from airbag use.

Which Types of Airbags are Safest?

There are several types of air bags, including passenger-side, side-curtain, and combination airbags.

Passenger-side airbags, while they are incredibly effective in protecting adults, have been associated with an increased risk of death among children. They have also been associated with non-fatal injuries to children of all ages. In fact, research shows that the protective effects of passenger-side airbags for children are entirely canceled out by the number of deaths associated with the devices.

There are a couple of reasons passenger-side airbags are dangerous. For one, infants strapped into rear-facing child seats in the passenger seat are at risk of sustaining a serious injury to the head and neck during airbag deployment. Additionally, children facing forward who are not properly belted are also at risk for severe head injuries. It is best to seat small children in the back seat of the car to protect children from injury.

Side-impact crashes make up 20 percent of crashes where deaths occur. Side-curtain airbags activate immediately if a side-impact crash occurs. This type of airbag deploys differently, from the top of the door rails above the side window, and are also effective in rollover crashes. Combination head and torso airbags, which deploy from the seat or door, also offer good protection during side impact crashes, but are less effective in rollover crashes.

Regardless of the type of airbags that are installed in your vehicle, accidents can happen. If you or a loved one has sustained an airbag-related injury, working with an airbag injury lawyer in Northern New Jersey may be in your best interest. At Buttafuoco & Associates, we have extensive experience working on product liability cases and offer free consultations at 1-800-NOW-HURT.

Balancing Protection and Risk: Using Airbags Safely

Our Northern New Jersey car accident attorneys want to emphasize that airbags save lives, but we have to use them properly. At Buttafuoco & Associates, we recommend following the NHTSA’s safety guidelines for airbags:

  • Always wear a seat belt. Airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them.
  • Children under 13 should not ride in the front seat. Children are often too small to benefit from the airbag and are especially susceptible to injury. If a child must sit in the front seat, switch off the airbag manually.
  • Stay up to date on recalls. Check with the NHTSA for any safety recalls for your vehicle and take your vehicle to a qualified dealer for a replacement.

How an Attorney Can Help You

If you or a loved one has been injured by an airbag, an experienced car accident attorney in Northern New Jersey can help you. An attorney can identify liable parties, whether it’s the vehicle manufacturer in a product liability case or the other driver.

Buttafuoco & Associates will work tirelessly to secure rightful compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our legal expertise ensures you are protected during negotiations or litigation, giving your case a fighting chance and helping you focus on your recovery.

For a free consultation to discover your rights, call 1-800-NOW-HURT.


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