This case was involved in a relatively severe frontal vehicle collision where the passenger airbag failed to deploy. Our client, who was wearing her seatbelt, suffered a cervical spinal cord injury because her airbag failed to deploy and properly restrain her head and neck.
Our client was a passenger in her daughter’s car. She was wearing her seatbelt and they were on their way to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. An SUV was traveling in the opposite direction and lost control on ice. The SUV slid across the center line, striking the front of our client’s vehicle. The airbag in our client’s car failed to deploy in the crash and, as a result, caused our client a paralyzing neck injury.
The vehicle’s event data recorder (known as the “black box”) showed that the change in velocity for the vehicle was 27 mph. During discovery, we obtained testing from the defendant manufacturer. This confirmed that the airbag in this vehicle must deploy in crashes where the change in velocity is above 16 mph.
Root cause analysis
Examination of the vehicle and data analysis was carried out. We determined that the reason the airbag failed to deploy was because of a faulty wire. The wire that was attached to the electronic front airbag sensor had become disconnected 12 milliseconds into the crash. Without the data from this airbag sensor, the airbag was not able to properly deploy. Extensive analysis and testing was conducted with an alternatively designed wire. The alternative design proved that the wire harness would have stay connected until the airbag’s deployment was made by the vehicle’s computer. Therefore, the passenger would have been protected.
How airbags should protect a vehicle’s occupants
A frontal airbag serves two critical functions: first of all, it prevents or reduces the severity of contact with a vehicle’s interior. For example, the instrument panel, steering wheel, and A-pillar. Secondly, but equally important (and lesser known), is to keep the head and torso in alignment. This helps the head and neck from moving too far too quickly and reduces or prevent injuries. Airbags may cause injury when they deploy with too much force. Or, they may cause injury when the components wear out over time, even within the expected life of the vehicle. This was recently evidenced by the Takata exploding airbags.
Holding manufacturers accountable for defective products deters negligent conduct from happening again and injuring or killing someone else.