In recent years, massive airbag recalls have been announced to address issues involving defective airbags. These recalls affect vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, which have reportedly been linked to 13 deaths and many injuries worldwide. Airbag failures have allegedly caused situations in which passenger vehicle occupants have either not survived relatively minor driving incidents or have suffered serious, permanent injuries. Lawsuits have been filed against the makers of certain automobiles and airbags, alleging the safety devices failed to work as promised.
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A 2007 study (Craig Newgard, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University) found that for drivers taller than 6 foot 3 inches, air bags were associated with a 5 percent greater risk of serious injury and for drivers shorter than 4 foot 11 inches, air bags were associated with a 4 percent increase in the risk of serious injury.
Side Airbags and Curtain Airbags
Curtain airbags are designed to protect the head for front-seat occupants (and back seat occupants in some vehicles) during a side crash. When deployed, curtain airbags form a cushion between the occupant's head and the window and they may protect in a rollover.
- The manufacturer fails to install air bags in the vehicle;
- The air bags fail to deploy (open);
- The airbags deploy in a low-impact crash and cause death or injury.
Honda issued a recall in 2008 because its airbags opened with so much force that metal parts of the airbag assembly could blast through the airbag, injuring a passenger in contact with the airbag. In May 2011 the Honda airbag recall expanded to 833,000 vehicles that may have been equipped with a faulty airbag. Meanwhile Hyundai issued a recall for 2007-2009 Elantra sedans for an airbag system sensor that could cause the airbags to open incorrectly, increasing the risk of injury to smaller passengers (i.e., women, children and the elderly) in the event of an accident.
Airbags Deploying Without Cause
In vehicles with side airbags, it is dangerous for occupants to lean against the windows, doors, and pillars, or to place objects between themselves and the side of the vehicle. For instance, if you are sideswiped and your side curtain airbag fails to deploy, you could suffer a serious concussion and even brain injury. Say you are driving in a storm and your vehicle is blown off the road; your side curtain airbags inflate and cause excessive force to children riding in the backseats.
Or your front passenger side airbag suddenly deploys without warning. A lawsuit was filed against Ford Motor Co. when a child was injured (August, 2008) after a Ford Expedition's airbags suddenly deployed when the vehicle was not in use. The complaint stated that, "uch unnecessary and unexpected deployment of the airbag caused serious injuries and damages." The plaintiff claims the Expedition is defective and unsafe due to the unnecessary and unexpected deployment of the airbag while the vehicle was not in use.
Side Airbag Recalls
February 2014: General Motors announces a recall of vehicles linked to airbag failures. Research suggests 303 people died in vehicles after their airbags failed to deploy when the vehicle's ignition was unintentionally shut off while the vehicle was driven. More than 1.6 million cars worldwide were recalled.
September 2011: 10,631 Kia Sorento SUVs built between June 15th, 2006 and November 27th, 2007 are recalled due to a faulty airbag issue where the passenger-side air bag may be turned off even when an adult is occupying the seat.
June 10, 2011: More than 47,000 2011 Cadillac SRX cross-over vehicles are recalled due to passenger-side side airbags that “might not deploy during a collision”.
December 2010: Chrysler Group recalls 65,000 Dodge Journey 2009 SUVs because side air bags might not deploy.
Feb 2010: Honda Motor Co. adds more than 378,000 cars to an existing safety recall for air bag inflation problems. Honda will replace the driver's side air bag inflator on the cars because they can deploy with too much pressure, causing the inflator casing to rupture and injure or kill the driver. Honda says it is aware of 12 incidents linked to the problem, with 11 injuries and one death.
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