Airbag Recall Injuries Revealed: What Victims and Families in Florida Need to Know

Mar 1, 2024 | Products Liability

When you get in a serious auto accident, your vehicle’s airbags are supposed to help keep you safe. Your vehicle’s crash sensors are supposed to detect the crash, and they are supposed to send a signal to the inflator mechanisms in your vehicle’s airbags telling them to deploy. Your vehicle’s airbags are then supposed to deploy in under 1/20th of a second (about the blink of an eye), protecting you from direct impacts with the steering wheel, dashboard, and other parts of the vehicle.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

Airbags don’t always work how they are supposed to. Each component in the airbag system has the potential to fail, and even a single failure can prevent proper airbag deployment. As a result, serious airbag-related injuries are more common than they should be, and this is sadly true for airbag-related deaths as well.

The Takata and ARC Airbag Recalls

A big part of the reason why serious and fatal airbag-related injuries are so common is that tens of millions of vehicles sold in the United States over the past 25 years were equipped with defective airbags. Takata—once the world’s leading airbag manufacturer—filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after more than 40 million of its airbags were recalled in the U.S. alone. This number swelled to more than 67 million in the following years.
With the extraordinary number of recalls, the automakers responsible for replacing Takata’s defective airbags weren’t able to do so promptly. As a result, they worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a priority system, and they are continuing to replace defective Takata airbags to this day.

The issue with Takata’s airbags relates to the inflator mechanism used to trigger airbag deployment. Takata’s inflator mechanisms were (and are) prone to corrosion, and this can result in either:

  • Failing to inflate upon impact; or,
  • Exploding violently instead of properly inflating.

Both of these are extremely dangerous; and, to date, they have been blamed for hundreds of serious injuries and dozens of deaths. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits played a big part in Takata’s bankruptcy, and nearly all major automakers have faced (and are currently facing) lawsuits related to their sale of defective Takata airbags.

In late 2023, General Motors also issued a recall for more than one million airbags manufactured by a different company, ARC. This followed the NHTSA’s indication that it may issue a mandatory recall for approximately 52 million ARC airbags sold in the United States. However, ARC and automakers (including General Motors) have fought a second large-scale airbag recall, and the NHTSA has not yet taken formal action about its concerns over ARC airbags.

However, this does not necessarily mean that ARC airbags are safe. The NHTSA found that ARC’s airbags suffered from issues similar to those that led to the Takata airbag recalls in prior years. ARC has already faced lawsuits related to its airbag inflators, and there is a high likelihood that it will face more lawsuits in the future.

What does all of this mean for you? If you have been seriously injured by an airbag, or if you have lost a loved one in a fatal collision involving airbag deployment or non-deployment, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. You and your loved ones may be entitled to financial compensation, and speaking with a lawyer is the first step toward seeking the financial compensation you and your family deserve.

Common Airbag-Related Injuries

To be clear, both defective and non-defective airbags can cause injuries. Even when airbags work properly, they deploy with extreme force, and both the force of impact from an airbag and the abrasion caused by direct contact with an airbag can cause serious injuries.

But, when an airbag is defective, the risks can be even greater. As we mentioned above, when defective airbags fail, they typically either fail to deploy or explode rather than deploying properly. Both of these present high risks for serious or fatal injuries. With this in mind, common types of airbag-related injuries include:

Bone Fractures and Dislocations
The force of an airbag’s deployment (or explosion) can be more than enough to cause bone fractures and dislocations in all parts of the body. Rib, collarbone, arm, wrist, and hand fractures are all especially common airbag-related injuries.

Burns (Chemical, Friction, and Thermal)
Burns are common airbag-related injuries as well. This includes friction burns from the airbag material rubbing against the skin as well as chemical burns and thermal burns caused by defective airbag explosions.

Concussions and Other Brain Injuries
The force of impact from an airbag can be enough to cause a concussion, or even a more serious traumatic brain injury (TBI) in some cases. While airbags are intended to prevent TBI, the reality is that they end up causing these injuries in many cases.

Facial Injuries
Drivers and passengers can suffer serious facial injuries when airbags either fail to deploy or explode and send dangerous chemicals and debris flying through the cabin. These include lacerations resulting in permanent scars as well as eye, nose, and jaw injuries that may require surgery.

Neck and Spinal Cord Injuries
Neck and spinal cord injuries (SCI) are also common in serious accidents involving airbag deployment or non-deployment. The force of impact from an airbag can cause a neck injury or SCI, while an airbag’s failure to deploy can result in whiplash and other serious forms of trauma as well.

Nerve and Soft Tissue Damage
Airbag explosions can send shrapnel flying through the cabin resulting in nerve and soft tissue damage in the face and other parts of the body. When airbags fail to deploy, drivers and passengers can suffer nerve and soft tissue damage due to broken glass and impacts with objects both inside and outside of the vehicle.

Organ Damage and Internal Bleeding
The force of impact resulting from an airbag’s deployment or an airbag’s failure to deploy can also cause organ damage and internal bleeding. Along with TBI and SCI, these are some of the most dangerous risks associated with airbag failures.

Severe Lacerations and Blood Loss
Severe lacerations and blood loss resulting from airbag failures can present life-threatening risks in some cases as well. Even when they aren’t life-threatening, these injuries will often result in permanent scars and other long-term effects.

Filing a Claim for a Defective Airbag

Individuals and families who have suffered losses due to defective airbags can—and should—take legal action. Under the product liability laws that govern lawsuits involving defective products, automakers can be held “strictly liable” for selling vehicles with defective airbags. This means that they can be held fully liable for victims’ and families’ losses even if they were not negligent in selecting Takata or ARC as their airbag supplier. Nearly all major automakers have sold vehicles equipped with Takata or ARC airbags, and you can use the NHTSA’s Recall Lookup Tool to see if your (or your loved one’s) vehicle has been recalled.

Filing a Claim for Driver Negligence

When seeking just compensation for a serious or fatal auto accident, it is important not to focus solely on one possible cause of your (or your loved one’s) injuries. Even when a vehicle’s airbags are defective, the driver (or other party) that is responsible for causing the collision could still be liable as well. This can be important when parties are only liable for their percentage of fault—and when victims and their families may need to file claims against all liable parties to recover the total financial compensation they deserve.

Damages Available to Drivers and Passengers Who Suffer Serious Airbag Injuries

Drivers and passengers who have suffered airbag-related injuries are entitled to just compensation for all of the financial and non-financial losses they incur as a result of their injuries. While individual circumstances vary, in most cases, injured drivers and passengers will be entitled to just compensation for their past, present, and future:

  • Medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses
  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement
  • Pain, suffering, and emotional trauma
  • Loss of companionship, consortium, and enjoyment of life

Damages Available to Families in Cases Involving Fatal Auto Accidents in Florida

For families who have lost loved ones in fatal auto accidents involving airbag deployment or non-deployment, holding the at-fault party (or parties) accountable is an important step in the recovery process. Under Florida law, damages that can be recovered on behalf of the estate (and distributed to the victim’s heirs or beneficiaries) include:

  • Medical, funeral, burial, and other out-of-pocket expenses\
  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of companionship and consortium
  • Loss of guidance, services, and support

Do You Have a Serious or Fatal Airbag Injury Claim in Florida?

If you think that you may have a serious or fatal airbag injury claim in Florida, what should you do? While there are several steps in the process of seeking just compensation, there are a handful of steps that it is important to take as soon as possible. These steps include:

  • Get the Treatment You Need – First and foremost, you should make sure you get the treatment you need. This is true whether you suffered airbag-related injuries in an accident or you are struggling to cope with a loved one’s untimely passing.
  • Preserve as Much Evidence as Possible – You should do what you can to preserve as much evidence as possible. If you have photos or videos from the accident scene, keep all of them. Keep all repair estimates, medical bills, employment records, and other documents you receive, and try to write down as many details as you can remember.
  • Report the Accident – All serious and fatal auto accidents must be reported to the police under Florida law, and auto insurance policies generally require reporting of all accidents. With this in mind, you should ensure that your (or your loved one’s) accident gets reported promptly.
  • Keep the Details to Yourself – While it is important to make sure the accident gets reported, it is also important to keep the details of the accident to yourself. When you contact your (or your loved one’s) insurance company, stick to the basic facts, and resist the temptation to post about the accident on social media.
  • Schedule a Free, No-Obligation Consultation – To ensure that you have the best chance of holding the at-fault party (or parties) accountable, you should speak with a lawyer right away. This should cost you nothing out of pocket, and you should be able to get the answers you need to make informed decisions about your next steps.

Schedule a Free, No-Obligation Consultation at Silva & Silva

If you need to know more about filing a claim for serious or fatal airbag-related injuries in Florida, we strongly encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Florida auto accident lawyer at Silva & Silva, please call 305-445-0011 or get in touch online now.