Did You Suffer An Airbag Burn?
Required in all new passenger vehicles since 1999, front airbags are one of the most important safety innovations in recent years, providing critical cushioning for occupants during crashes. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that front airbags have reduced driver fatalities by 29 percent and fatalities of front seat passengers over the age of 13 years old by 32 percent. Unfortunately, despite their many benefits, airbags also have a track record for causing injuries.
How Airbags Work
Airbags are inflatable cushions located in the steering wheel and dashboard of passenger vehicles that aim to protect occupants from striking their heads and chests against hard structures on the vehicle’s interior during a crash. When a vehicle is involved in a crash, the airbag system’s sensors immediately measure the severity of the impact. If the crash occurs at a high enough speed or with enough force, the sensors will signal the bags to inflate with gas in as little as a fraction of a second. Newer systems also use an algorithm based on whether an occupant is wearing a seatbelt in determining whether to deploy the airbags. In most cases, for instance, front airbags deploy for unbelted occupants during accidents that generate the amount of force equivalent to crashing into a rigid wall at between ten and 12 miles per hour. For belted occupants, the threshold is typically higher, at around 16 miles per hour. Once deployed, airbags will need to be replaced.
When an airbag system senses that an accident is severe enough, it triggers the ignition of sodium azide, which in turn causes the release of nitrogen gas, carbon dioxide, and alkaline aerosol. This reaction, while it allows airbags to deploy very quickly, usually within a fraction of a second, can also result in the generation of significant heat, often exceeding 500 degrees Celsius. While there are vents in the system to help release this hot gas (located on the backside of the steering wheel), occupants are still vulnerable to both chemical and thermal burns on their hands, forearms, chest, and face, either due to proximity to the vents or as a result of direct contact with the airbags. Most of these kinds of burns are classified as first or second degree burns, which means that skin grafts and surgery are rarely necessary. They can still, however, be extremely painful and potentially disfiguring and as with all burns, there is a risk of infection and similar complications.
Here to Help with Your Accident Claim
While airbags are there to protect us, their use doesn’t come without its own set of risks. If you suffered a burn when your airbag deployed, or were injured in another way, perhaps as a result of a defect in the airbag’s deployment system, contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers at Boone & Davis for an assessment of your legal options. You can set up a consultation, free of charge, by calling 954-566-9919 or by sending us an online message.