Despite their use as a safety device, lawsuits have been filed for decades alleging airbags seriously injured or killed vehicle passengers, including children. In one lawsuit, filed more than 15 years ago, the family of a five-year-old boy filed a lawsuit against General Motors, alleging a defective airbag caused the boy's death. According to the Orlando Sentinel (3/7/96), the family claims the airbag deployed while the driver of the vehicle, the boy's grandmother, was parking a car and bumped into a planter box. The side airbag reportedly deployed, twisting the young boy's head and breaking his neck.
The lawsuit alleged the airbag and the car were "unreasonably dangerous."
If adults are at risk of serious injury due to airbags deploying unnecessarily—meaning they deploy even in the absence of a serious accident—then children are at an even more serious risk. Because of the children's small size, the force with which a defective airbag deploys can cause permanent damage and even death. That is why the Centers for Disease Control recommend that children never be seated in front of an airbag.
Adults are also at risk of serious injury when an airbag deploys unnecessarily. Among injuries sustained by adults when airbags unnecessarily deploy are head and neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries and injuries to the hands and arms, especially in the case of drivers' side airbags deploying (where the driver's hands are on the steering wheel and therefore closest to the deployed airbag).
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Guddi Ratore's family filed a lawsuit seeking $75 million from Honda. The lawsuit alleges that Honda knew about problems with some Accord airbags but failed to take appropriate action to warn consumers or to remove the defective airbags.