Airbags save lives. That is why they are a requirement in all new vehicles since 1990. However, airbags can injure or kill you if they are deployed incorrectly, or if the canister that holds the airbag is defective. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 260 car occupants died as a result of low-speed accidents between 1990 and 2006. Irrespective of the circumstances, severe injury or death caused by a malfunctioning airbag is 100% avoidable, and you are entitled to receive compensation. For many years, attorneys at the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm have handled high-profile product defects as well as personal injury lawsuits. Get in touch with us if you are injured in a car accident.
How an Airbag Works
An airbag is a light fabric. While the driver's airbag is found in the steering wheel, the passengers' airbag is behind the dashboard's panel. The size of the motorist's airbag is around the size of a beach ball when inflated. However, the passengers' airbag is much bigger because the passenger is very far away. Moreover, airbags can be found in the car's doors.
An airbag is connected to a crash sensor that deploys the airbag should the vehicle get into a severe collision. Typically, any collision at speed above eight to ten MPH is known as head-on and near-head-on collision.
In serious car accidents, the crash sensor will cause an igniter to produce gas (which can be argon or nitrogen), fill the airbag, and then deploy in less than 1/20th of a second. Then the airbag will deflate immediately. However, the deployment releases different types of chemicals and dust, which can irritate your skin and eyes.
Why Airbags Fail to Deploy Sometimes
If your airbag does not deploy in an injury-causing accident, the incident ought to be reported to NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation.
Several factors involved in the deployment of airbags include the design of your airbag, the location of the sensor, and the nature of the accident. However, an airbag is not supposed to deploy in every accident. Examples of instances your airbag will not deploy include:
- When the impact of the car accident is not severe. Naturally, airbags are not designed to inflate in a fender-bender because airbag deployment could cause injuries. Also, seat belts offer enough protection.
- When your car detects no occupant or a small-statured individual like a child in the front passenger seat, the advanced frontal airbag system automatically turns off the passenger's airbag.
- It is advisable to have your airbag replaced immediately following deployment. Nevertheless, this is not always the case with used vehicles.
Various Types of Airbags Malfunctions that Could Result in Injuries
One of the most notable deployment errors is a crash sensor malfunction. Other forms of defects and faults include:
- Airbag didn't deploy — As previously mentioned, not all car accidents will make an airbag to deploy. Nonetheless, when the crash is extremely intense, the airbag needs to inflate. Even when you have buckled your seat belt, failure to inflate could result in severe injuries.
- The airbag accidentally deployed — If your vehicle hits a pothole or curb, your airbag could inflate, causing injuries. Sometimes you may lose control and have a crash due to the accidental inflation.
- The airbag deployed aggressively — An airbag is designed to prevent injuries in accidents at high speed. However, they are likely to result in injuries to the vehicle's occupants when deployed in a low-speed collision. Aggressive airbag deployment accidents are fatal to children and persons with a small height.
- The airbag deployed late — Deployment timing is vital. Deployment of the airbag, for even a fraction of a second late, could result in a severe injury. This is because the passenger or driver's head is very close to the safety equipment in question.
- Your vehicle does not have side airbags or has few side airbags — Rollover airbags and side airbags are not a requirement by the federal government. Nevertheless, most cars have side airbags that assist in lowering the risk of suffering an injury if a side impact accident occurs.
Liable Parties in Defective Airbag Car Accidents
Discussed below are various scenarios that can help determine the responsible parties in a defective airbag accident:
Design and Manufacturing Defects
A company that manufactures, designs, sells, or distributes defective products in Nevada is responsible for an injury caused by the defect when the products are used in a reasonably predictable way. That means you do not have to prove that the accused was negligent to win a lawsuit.
You should prove that the following to have a successful defective airbag claim:
- The company manufactured, designed, distributed, or sold the airbag or the airbag component
- The airbag was defective
- The defect was there when the airbag left the responsible party's possession
- You used the airbag in a reasonably foreseeable way
- The fault led to your injuries or damage
Proof of a similar car accident involving a similar type of airbag can assist in establishing the presence of the fault.
It is worth noting that the fact that the responsible party has issued a recall isn't evidence of the problem.
Usually, proving design defects require expert testimony to establish what took place during the car accident as well as what ought to have occurred.
For your airbag to function, it should be installed well.
Not all body shop employees are qualified in the installation of new bags. If a dealer or a body shop install an airbag that deploys with a lot of force or doesn't deploy, the company is accountable for any resulting injuries.
It is always better to be safe than sorry. Always buy your replacement airbags from a renowned dealer and have them install the airbags.
Improper Use of the Airbag
Often, car repair shops and manufacturers will attempt to avoid accountability by urging that you misused your airbag. They could even testify that you removed or ignored the airbag warning.
The state of Nevada follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under Nevada Revised Statutes 41.141, the judge apportions fault to all responsible parties. That means you will still recover compensation even if your actions or inaction caused your injury provided your responsibility is not higher than that of other parties.
For example, assume the court determines that your total compensation amount is fifty thousand dollars. However, the court also believes that you were 10% responsible for the accident. In that case, your total compensation amount will be reduced by ten percent, leaving you with an award of forty-five thousand dollars.
Inadequate or Missing Warning Labels
According to federal regulations, all vehicles should have warnings on how to use an airbag safely. It can be either an audio-visual warning system or a warning label. Most drivers do not like these warnings, and hence, remove them.
If the car owner then sells the car and you are injured due to the missing information, you can take legal action against the seller.
Recycled or Counterfeit Airbag
An airbag should not be reused following a deployment. However, there are repair shops that:
- Refold deployed airbags, or
- Install undeployed counterfeit or cheaper bags, or airbags that were in wrecked vehicles in a junkyard.
Although both recycled and counterfeit airbags are at an increased risk of malfunctioning, Nevada has no law that prevents this practice. Therefore, it is wise to have your bag inspected and replaced (if necessary) if it was replaced by another person apart from your car manufacturer. You can do so by calling your car manufacturer's call center.
Your car insurance provider could cover the cost of replacing a counterfeit or reused bag. Additionally, you could be protected if you bought the bag from a renowned website that has buyer protection.
Common Injuries Sustained in Defective Airbag Accidents
An airbag deploys at very high speed, and when it hits you with that speed, you are likely to suffer a severe injury. Sometimes, your airbag could deploy much later than it ought to hence causing the dashboard to injure you. Additionally, chemicals used to deploy airbags have been reported to cause severe injuries.
Discussed below are different airbag injuries you are likely to sustain:
- Facial injuries — One of the first body parts that will come in contact with your airbag's momentum and will be affected the most is your face. A frontal airbag is designed to prevent the windshield or dashboard from hitting the head and face. While the airbag could succeed in stopping the collision, your face could get stuck with the airbag's force leading to permanent scarring, broken facial bones, and damage to your eyes, nose, and jaw. Sometimes severe eye injuries could lead to permanent or temporary blindness.
- Laceration and Burns — The speed at which an airbag deploys could result in burns or abrasions, particularly to your arms and face. Chemicals (sodium hydroxide) in the aerosol created at the time of the airbag deployment is another cause of burns. Indirect injuries as a result of the melting of clothes, direct thermal burns, and friction burns stemming from physical contact are also possible.
- Chest Injuries — To prevent you from being thrown out of your seat, an airbag deploys fast. After the airbag deploys from the steering wheel and collides with the body, your chest is prone to injuries. As a result, you may sustain damage to soft tissues or broken chest bones.
- Internal Injuries — Chemicals released during deployment can lead to asthma attacks to asthma patients.
- Back and Neck Injuries — You are also likely to sustain severe back and neck injuries due to whiplash you suffered due to impact. Back and neck injuries require continued therapy and medical treatment.
Las Vegas Defective Airbag Accident Statute of Limitations
The term statute of limitations refers to the law which sets a deadline on your entitlement to file a claim. There are several deadlines as far as car accident claims are concerned.
According to Nevada Revised Statute 11.190, a legal action to get compensation for injuries to an individual or a person's demise caused by neglect or wrongful act of another person should be brought within two (2) years.
In other words, if you were injured and intend to file a claim against the liable party, you should do so within 2 years from the date of the accident. Similarly, you should file a claim within two years if your loved one succumbed to the airbag accident. However, the 2-year clock kicks off running on the date the victim dies.
For car damage caused by the airbag accident, the claim should be brought within three (3) years from the date of the accident.
If you attempt filing your claim after the statute of limitations has passed, the defendant may point out that the discrepancy to the judge as a motion to dismiss your case. In most cases, the judge will grant the motion. That is why it is essential to consult with an experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney. The attorney will help you understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
Filing an Auto Accident Claim: Steps to Take Following an Accident
If involved in a serious road accident in Las Vegas, it is your responsibility to file a claim with an insurance provider to receive compensation for the losses incurred. However, taking legal action is complicated. Here is a simple guide on what you should do following the accident.
According to Nevada Revised Statutes, any motorist involved in a car accident that involves injury, death, or damage to property should stop. You are also required to offer aid and give information.
Make sure you assess the situation and remain calm. Check for any injuries and call law enforcers if any person is injured.
It is also essential that you seek medical care for symptoms of injuries immediately. For instance, mild symptoms could suggest a brain concussion.
If you have a smartphone or a camera, make sure you capture photos of your injuries, damage to your car, and the accident scene. Also, take pictures of the road and weather conditions. The photographs will help the insurance company in assessing your damage.
Moreover, it is recommended to exchange contact information with all those involved in the accident. Obtain the names, phone numbers, and addresses of all passengers. Do not forget to obtain the contact information of the accident's witnesses.
Also, record or write down the account of events that occurred immediately before, after, and during the accident when the memories are still fresh in your mind. With this information, contact your insurance provider. Ensure you have your photos and notes captured at the accident scene, declaration page, and insurance card before calling your insurer.
Damages Awarded in a Defective Airbag Accident
The purpose of damages in Nevada is to compensate a plaintiff for the current and future loss in a personal injury claim. Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are damages that are easy to attach a dollar value. They include property damage, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and medical expenses.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are damages that do not involve out-of-pocket costs. They consist of emotional distress, loss of life enjoyment, pain and suffering, physical impairment, and inconvenience.
Generally, there is no limit on the total amount you can be awarded as compensatory damages. That means you can recover any amount the judge sees reasonable and fair.
An airbag injury almost always requires medical attention. The medical bill can add up quickly. Luckily, you are entitled to compensation for medical expenses you incur as well as expected to spend in the future due to the accident. Examples of medical bills include hospital stays, surgeries, prescriptions, emergency room visits, x-rays, and physical therapy.
You will also recover any income lost due to the injury. For instance, if you are not able to go to work for a month because you were receiving treatment, you will be compensated for the income you would have made during that month.
Likewise, if the injury caused a disability which will reduce your future capacity to earn, you should be compensated for the loss.
Loss of Consortium
If you are married, your partner could recover loss of consortium damages. The concept behind this type of damage is compensation since you are not in a position to offer your spouse with the same level of companionship you provided before the accident.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are damages that account for emotional anguish and physical pain that you deal with after the accident. The emotional portion of pain and suffering factors in lack of sleep, depression, and anxiety.
Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
Pain and suffering damages settlement amount in Nevada is negotiable.
Nevertheless, most insurance providers use two formulas to determine what is a fair compensatory amount in a personal injury claim. These methods include:
Multiplying Compensatory Damages
This method involves multiplying your total damages by a number that is between one and five, depending mainly on the seriousness of your injury.
The more long-term and severe your injury is, the higher the number you will use. Usually, injuries that are proved with photos, test results, and x-rays merit a higher multiplier compared to subjective injuries like insomnia and depression.
- Per Diem Method
Under the per diem method, you are seeking a certain amount of money for every day you experience pain and suffering due to the airbag accident.
What you are awarded in your claim is probably due to negotiation in which a lawyer should prove factors like:
- The seriousness of the injury
- The severity of the liable party's conduct
- The possibility of proceeding to trial
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Your case's strength
Proving Damages in a Las Vegas Lawsuit
To be awarded damages, you need to convince the judge, the defendant's insurance provider, or attorney. There are numerous methods to prove that:
X-rays, among other visual test results, are instrumental in making the subjective experience of injuries real to the judge. With a complete medical record, you are likely to be awarded damages even when you have minor injuries.
Therefore, it is essential to have a physician take in-depth treatment notes. An experienced attorney could assist the healthcare expert in preparing the necessary documentation required to prove your personal injury claim.
Make sure to attend all appointments.
Videos and Photographs
Another method to prove compensatory damages is using videos and photos before and after the accident. And if you're undergoing rehabilitative therapy, it could be brilliant to videotape all sessions. It will help the judge understand what you went through.
You should ensure the physician consents to being videotaped. The therapist should be available to testify. Your personal injury lawyer can ask questions on your behalf in case enquiring makes you uneasy.
Mental Health Expert Treatment
Usually, counseling is required when there are no physical injuries. If you're seeking compensation for anxiety, depression, or insomnia, your doctor can explain to the court why your claims are exceptional and real.
While you can testify about the accident, it's much better to have another person do it on your behalf. You can also use vignettes explaining how your life has changed after the airbag accident.
For example, if you've stopped engaging in your daily activities or attending social events. Sometimes having a witness willing to testify can inspire an insurance adjuster to offer a satisfactory offer. Your lawyer can help you acquire signed declarations.
Find An Experienced Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
When a defective airbag causes injuries in Las Vegas, the process of receiving compensation can be complicated because of the various steps involved. Your attorney will need to engage a product design and car accident reconstruction expert who will analyze the case as well as determine the defect's source and the cause of your injury. The legal team at Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can also help you build the case and bring a claim against the responsible party. We can also help you in proving negligence and receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact us at 702-996-1224 to learn more about your available options.