INJURY LAW BLOG

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The hazards of imperfect airbag timing

Posted by Smiley & Smiley on May 15, 2015 5:54:55 PM

Airbags can literally save your life in the event that you are ever involved in a motor vehicle accident. However, defective airbags could also cause you significant harm, should you ever find yourself riding in a motor vehicle outfitted with improperly timed airbag releases. The very physics that enable airbags to save lives can also cause people to lose them if the bags are defective, if they are improperly timed or if passengers exposed to airbag releases are too young to come in contact with them safely.

Car and Driver refers to airbag releases as "engineered violence." Airbag releases essentially allow these safety devices to undergo a controlled explosion in order to ensure the safety of air accident victims. GM's global airbag engineering specialist specifically tasked with ensuring the safe execution of frontal airbag strategies has observed that, "We don't like to use the word 'explosion' around here. But it is a very fast, well-controlled chemical reaction. And heat and gas are the result."

When nylon airbags are filled with nitrogen gas at high pressures upon impact, the "relatively" soft bag fills up the space between a driver or passenger and the car parts around him or her. Because these bags aid in distributing the load and force of a car accident impact on the human body, airbags can serve as lifesavers. But if a bag goes off prior to a collision, after impact or in the presence of a very small passenger, far more harm than help can result.

In recent years, a number of products liability suits have been filed after individuals suffered harm as a result of defective airbags. When one understands the physics governing airbags and their potentially destructive explosive power, it is not hard to see why manufacturers of defective airbags should be held accountable for that harm.

Source: Car and Driver, "The Physics Of: Airbags," June 2011

Topics: car accidents

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