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Texas Plaintiff Sues Over Airbag Injuries, Other Claims

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Marshall, TXAirbags were originally envisioned and designed to prevent injuries. So it’s somewhat galling when airbag injuries are caused when the devices either deploy when they shouldn’t, fail to deploy when they should or deploy improperly. This problem is compounded given that most cars, including subcompacts, have as many as 10 airbags as standard equipment.

To that end, a woman from Marshall, Texas, has filed an airbag failure lawsuit against KIA after she was injured following a rear-end collision in March of this year. According to the Southeast Texas Record (10/9/13), Suzy Collier was riding as a passenger in a car driven by her husband James. They were following another vehicle, when the vehicle suddenly slowed in front, forcing the front of the Collier KIA Rio into the rear of the first vehicle.

The plaintiff was riding in the right-front passenger seat of the KIA Rio and sustained injuries when the air bag(s) failed to protect her in the collision. Among other claims in the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges the air bag failed to deploy in a timely manner.

The plaintiff’s injuries were described as serious, and the lawsuit is seeking damages for pain and suffering, impairment, disfigurement, interference with daily activities, a reduced capacity to enjoy life, medical expenses, and interest and court costs, according to the lawsuit.

Airbags were originally conceived to protect passengers from the kind of serious injuries historically seen in collisions involving the front of the vehicle, such as a head-on crash or a frontal collision with a fixed stationary object, such as a tree or hydro pole. Manufacturers have since designed and installed side curtain airbags and side impact airbags both front and back, to protect passengers from side impact injuries or rollover injuries.

While the passenger airbag in the 2007 KIA Rio is reported to have deployed, the allegation in the lawsuit is that it failed to deploy in a timely manner. There is also the suggestion that the plaintiff sustained serious injuries to her lower extremities. There was, it is alleged, no available airbag in the 2007 KIA Rio to ward against injuries to a passenger’s legs.

Historically, there have been deployment problems that have been exacerbated given the number of airbags common in a modern vehicle. Airbag deployment is triggered by strategically placed sensors at various locations around the vehicle. Sometimes these sensors either fail to respond to a serious collision or trigger an airbag in a relatively minor collision, fostering airbag injuries to an occupant whom otherwise might have escaped injury entirely in a minor collision.

The advent of side airbags and curtain airbags may help to protect all occupants of a vehicle. However, increasing the load of airbags in a typical vehicle now places airbags within close proximity to small children who usually ride in the back. In their infancy, the deployment speed and intensity of a front airbag was too much for small children riding in the front, causing injuries and in some cases death of the child. Airbags were subsequently decelerated to minimize injuries to children or small adults riding in front. Experts began advocating that children ride in back - in properly designed child car seats - in order to be further away from a frontal collision and out of reach of the front-mounted airbags.

Today, side airbags and children are an issue, given that airbags virtually surround all occupants in the vehicle.

Airbags can also prove faulty, as the number of airbag recalls triggered by various manufacturers can attest. In April - about a month after the Collier collision - Hyundai and KIA recalled a number of vehicles to fix a faulty bracket that could come loose and injure an occupant when an airbag deploys. The airbag recall did not involve the year or model of KIA cited in the Collier air bag lawsuit.

The airbag lawsuit was filed September 24, in US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division. Defendants are KIA Motors America Inc. and KIA Motors Corporation. The case is Case No. 2:13-cv-00759.

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