When driving, accidents are bound to happen because many factors are beyond a driver's immediate control. When these accidents happen, you depend on the safety components installed in your car, such as airbags, to help you avoid serious injuries. At times the airbag can inflate too late, rupture when inflating or never inflate at all. When these scenarios happen, there is a huge possibility that they can cause fatal and significant injuries. Working with an attorney can help provide the knowledge you need to understand your legal rights in a defective airbag case. Get in touch with us at the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney to get comprehensive legal representation.

What Constitutes a Defective Airbag?

A defective airbag is an airbag that has a faulty design, manufacturing defect, or other necessary input or exclusion that interferes with the safe and expected functioning of the airbag. Several airbag defects result in injuries, and in some cases, death. They consist of:

Excessively Aggressive Airbags

Although airbags are installed to keep you safe, they can be dangerous if they are overly aggressive in deployment. While they are very effective in reducing injuries in high-speed crashes, when deployed aggressively in low-speed collisions, they are more likely to cause fatal injuries. Because the airbags are designed for adults, they might cause injuries to children and some adults of small stature.

Improperly Timed Deployment of Airbags

When the timing of the deployment is either late or an early deployment, then it might result in severe injuries. If the airbag deploys too late, then it will not reduce the impact of the accident to the vehicle occupant. If the airbag inflates too early, then the occupant will not receive full protection from the airbag.

Untethered Airbags

The tethers are stitched onto the interior of the airbags to restrict their movement when they are deployed. Airbags with no tethers will excessively inflate, causing fatal injuries to vehicle occupants.

Other System Malfunctions

Faulty electrical sensors or systems cause airbags to inflate at unexpected moments such as when starting your car, or when there is an impact with a pothole. The sudden deployment can result in significant and sometimes fatal injuries.

Types of Injuries Caused By Defective Airbags

Injuries have been described resulting from all stages of an airbag deployment, and all components of the system from the expansion of the bag, contact with the bag, automatic deployment, non-deployment, and aggressive deflation. Mostly the types of injury you suffer, depend on the nature of the airbag defect.

Injuries that may result from exploding airbags include:

  • Lacerations to the veins, brain stem, arteries, heart, lungs, liver, and spleen
  • Puncture wounds
  • Skull fracture

Injuries sustained from wrongly timed or untethered airbags include:

  1. Facial Injuries

The impact of the airbag can fracture some fragile structures in our body. The face is the first part of the body to be exposed to the airbag and will probably take the hardest hit. Airbag deployment can cause permanent scarring and broken bones in the face.

  1. Back and Neck Injuries

While airbags are put in installed to save lives, it may result in damages to your crucial body parts that you may have to manage for a significant time of your life. The back and neck are often body parts that require constant therapy and medical treatment.

  1. Burn Injuries

The force at which airbag inflates can cause burns or abrasions. The speed can cause the vehicle occupants to suffer burn injuries in the process. The arms and face are especially vulnerable to getting bruises.

  1. Internal Injuries

The chemicals released immediately after deployment can irritate the airways and lungs, and might even trigger an asthma attack. It is vital to note that even an appropriate airbag deployment can cause fatal or severe injuries.

Other injuries that may result from defective airbags include dental injuries, jawbone injuries, eye injuries, heart muscle rupture, fetal injury or puncture to the placenta in pregnant women, or wrist injuries and sprained fingers.

What to Do After a Defective Airbag Car Accident

It is very crucial to seek medical attention after being involved in an accident as you may feel fine but incur pain later.

You should also gather as much information as possible about the incident by undertaking the following steps:

  1. Preserve the Vehicle

You should preserve the vehicle if the injury resulted from a faulty airbag. Preserving the car will prevent interference of any evidence showing the defective airbag resulted in your injuries. You should not repair or sell the vehicle until experts and investigators have inspected the car, or you could end up losing valuable evidence.

  1. Record Information about the Accident

You should record the information on the scene by taking pictures, videos, and notes. You should take a picture of the vehicle damage, if any, as it will be investigated to determine if the impact was enough to deploy the airbag.

  1. Call the Police

You should call the police, even if you think your injuries are not that serious. Getting an official account of the scene is crucial, as you will need a copy of the incident when filing for an insurance claim.

  1. Seek Medical Attention

Later on, you can seek medical attention regardless of the seriousness of the injuries you have sustained. At times you might have internal injuries that might affect you as time progresses. Also, medical reports and tests will be used to determine your compensation.

  1. Consult an Attorney

It is essential to consult an attorney before speaking to the insurance as the companies might try to settle before determining all factors. You should not provide any written or verbal statement concerning the accident as it will be used against you in the trial.

The At-Fault Party in a Defective Airbag Car Accident

Determining the at-fault party mainly depends on the element of liability by figuring out if the accident was as a result of someone’s negligence or carelessness. In this type of injury cases, the party responsible for your injuries can be either of the following:

The defective airbag's manufacturer or distributor could be responsible for your injuries. The manufacturer could have made an error that resulted in the defective airbag, including design flaws, use of faulty or unsatisfactory quality materials, or assembly error. The distributor is liable if it provided inadequate instructions or warnings for the airbag. A primary example would be the failure of the company to provide child-specific notices.

The company that manufactured the defective airbag components can also be liable. For instance, the crash sensor may be faulty, or the diagnostic monitoring unit may fail to run a test on the airbag system. The companies that manufacture these components may also be liable for your injuries.

Other liable parties might be repair technicians or car dealers. The dealers might have sold you the vehicle, knowing they have airbag defects. A technician, while servicing your vehicle or repairing, may interfere with the wiring that connects all the components of the airbag system.

Compensation in Defective Airbags Cases

One of the most critical aspects of evaluating a personal injury liability claim is determining what types and amounts of damages you have suffered. Damages is a sum of money you will receive in a lawsuit either to compensate for some form of injury or loss or to punish the defendant for wrongdoing.

Compensatory damages are intended to restore you to the condition you were in before the injury as a result of the defective airbag car accident. These damages consist of economic losses such as medical expenses, lost wages or lost earning capacity, and in some cases out of pocket costs. They also include certain non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

The economic losses compensation, also known as special losses compensation, compensate for monetary expenses incurred because of an injury. Factors considered when determining the economic compensatory damages value are your age, occupation, income, and the severity and nature of your injuries. Future medical expenses are also considered. The financial losses that can be compensated in a faulty airbag personal injury case include:

  1. Medical Expenses

The medical bills you incurred both in the past and any that you may acquire in the future will be compensated if you win your injury case. For you to receive compensation for future expenses on medical attention, your medical caregiver needs to demonstrate why you need the treatment and for how long. 

  1. Lost Wages

When the case concludes either by settling or going to trial, you will have to be compensated for the amount of income you lost by resigning or being dismissed from your job. You can only be compensated if you sustained severe and long term injuries, which force you to take time off work so you can recover. Lost wages consist of regular income, bonuses, overtime pay, self-employment income, commissions, sick days or vacation, and self-employment income.

  1. Lost Earning Capacity

Lost earning capacity, also known as Impairment of earning power or future loss of earnings, refers to a decrease in a person's ability to earn an income due to the permanent or long term injuries.

Permanent or long term injuries caused by a defect airbag car accident may qualify for lost earning capacity. They might entitle you to damages in addition to those from lost wages. Lost earning capacity is determined through a complex assessment, which might involve:

  • Reviewing your work profile, including your talents, skills, experience, and abilities
  • You may also need to hire an expert medical witness to elaborate on the degree of the injury and the impact it would have on your future job performance
  • The calculations will be done using present-day market values and wages rates to determine the amount of income you would have lost in the future
  • Factors such as your life expectancy, retirement age, and promotion opportunities may also be considered in the calculation

The non-economic losses compensation are damages not capable of exact calculation and may include pain and suffering, and in some cases, loss of consortium. There is a greater chance of having damages issued if there is a physical manifestation as a result of the injury. They include the following:

  1. Pain and Suffering

You may be compensated for a severe bodily injury that causes physical or mental anguish for an extended period following an accident. For example, a head injury suffered in a defective airbag car accident that results in emotional problems, and persistent headaches could potentially lead to the awarding of pain and suffering damages. 

Although there are no standards set for establishing compensation for pain and suffering, the jury might consider some factors. They might be the severity of your injury, your age, and the degree of suffering from the injury.

  1. Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium refers to the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship, including affection and sexual relations due to injuries caused by a faulty airbag.  The spouse or a family member of someone injured or killed in a defective airbag car accident can sue for damages based on loss of consortium.

Possible Outcomes to a Personal Injury Case

Personal injury cases may be filed on a variety of grounds by individuals who have been hurt by recklessness or negligence of another party. There are mainly two outcomes to a personal injury case:

Informal Settlement

An Informal settlement is an agreement between you and the insurance company of the defective airbag manufacturer or any other party responsible for causing your injury. Most cases are usually solved through the informal settlement, generally, among you, the insurers, and a lawyer if you decide to hire one. Both you and the insurers will have to agree on an amount by negotiating and later sign a document acknowledging that none of you will file a lawsuit.

You will first have to write a demand letter, which will be the centerpiece of the compensation negotiation process. You should indicate your injuries, the medical treatments and costs, why the other party is liable for your injuries, and loss of income and earning capacity. You should describe how the accident happened and why the other party was at fault. You should also include eye witness testimonies and police reports to support your allegations.

It is essential to elaborate on the injuries and treatment, as this will be the foundation of your case. You should emphasize on your pain, recovery length and difficulty, any permanent or long term injury, and the impact they have on your life. You can then include all the medical caregivers who treated you and the costs of the treatments. Indicate the amount of time you missed from work, and you can attach a letter from your employer acknowledging this and the amount of pay you were to receive during that period.

You should then indicate a specific amount of money as compensation for your losses. The amount you mention should be higher than the deserved figure, which will leave some room for negotiation. Attach the supporting documents such as medical reports, medical bills, police reports, witness testimonies, and other necessary documents.

In case there is more than one business liable for your injuries, then you will have to deal with more than one insurance company to claim your settlements. You might receive a notice from either or all companies indicating which insurance company will provide the primary coverage. You will then have to deal with the stated company only for all your settlement claims.

For a fair settlement to be reached, negotiation has to take place. After you indicate the compensation you demand from the liable party, in response, they will most likely make an offer to pay a lesser amount. You may reduce your demand, or the responsible parties increases their offer until all of you are satisfied with the settlement. A settlement is reached when the liable party agrees to pay a sum of money, which you are willing to accept.

Once you accept a settlement, the liable party will issue you with a settlement check in exchange for a release. The release indicates that the responsible party is willing to offer you the sum of money agreed on, but none of the parties involved should make further claims.

If you reject a settlement offer and can not negotiate further, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. If the lawsuit is pending, you can decide to continue the case in court. At a trial, the jury will decide on the amount the liable party must pay to compensate you for your injuries. 

It is unlikely for the case to proceed to court because the defective airbag manufacturers would want to control risks by keeping the situation out to the public eye. The settlement can also guarantee a win for you and can help avoid a protracted trial, which can extend for months. You can consult with your lawyer and look at the facts of the case to help you determine the best approach to receive compensation for your injuries.

Formal Lawsuit

A formal lawsuit or personal injury trial case is initiated when you file a civil complaint against a corporation, person, or government agency. The lawsuit accuses the parties of acting carelessly or negligently, leading to the defective airbag car accident that caused your injury.  

The judge or jury examines the evidence presented by both parties to decide whether the defendant should be held liable for your injuries. The jury or judge then decides on the value of damages the defendant should pay you for your injuries if they find the other party liable.

The first step in a personal injury trial is the selection of a jury. The attorney for both parties can question the jurors as to matters of the case and decide on those they would like on the situation.

Both parties will then give opening statements after they select a jury. Your attorney will present the facts of the accident and the defendant's alleged role. The defendant's attorney will then present defenses to the allegations.

Each side will then present arguments and evidence to the jury. Witnesses and experts may testify to strengthen your case that may include medical providers, accident reconstruction experts, or eyewitnesses to the accident. Your attorney may also introduce evidence such as police reports, medical reports, photographs and videos, your employer's testimony, or testimony from your friends and family explaining how the accident has affected your life.

As in the case of opening statements, both sides will also be required to give closing statements, to sum up the case. The accounts will assist the jury in reaching the final verdict, as your attorney will have to explain why the evidence shows the defendant was legally responsible. The other party's attorney will have to show how the evidence has not established the defendant's liability to the accident.

The jury will then deliberate and give a verdict. Once the jury reaches a decision, the jury foreperson informs the judge, and the judge usually announces the judgment in open court. If the jury finds the other party liable, then they will decide on the value of damages you are to be awarded. The court will then determine the final judgment, and you will be assigned your settlement. The party found liable can also decide to appeal the decision to an appellate court in California's judicial system.

Disbursement of Your Injury Settlement

After you settle, several steps need to take place for you to receive your funds. The settlement award will be deposited in a trust account with your attorney so that all remaining costs can be paid out of your settlement. Your attorney will then use the money to pay off your medical bills, any medical liens, and take out their fees from this account. Any attorney fees and costs incurred must be paid out of your settlement funds.

Contact a Orange County Personal Injury Lawyer

Car accidents can be costly, especially if you were seriously injured in the collision. You may be facing years of medical care, or long term or permanent disability. Car accident cases are complex, especially if it involves the failure of an airbag, so it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney to work on your case. If you are suffering injuries sustained in a car accident from an airbag deployment or malfunction, contact Orange County Personal Injury Attorney at 714-876-1959.