The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that airbags have saved thousands of lives, but even when they function correctly, they may pose risks to drivers and passengers.
An airbag typically works when a sensor detects rapid deceleration. This triggers a chemical reaction, which produces a large volume of hot gas to inflate the airbag, with temperatures within the airbag reaching as high as 500°C. The airbag then deflates over a period of about a second, releasing hot gas into the passenger compartment.
When airbags malfunction, they may explode spontaneously in the absence of any rapid deceleration or with such force that they spew metal and plastic fragments as well as hot gasses into the passenger compartment. To date, defective airbags have been the cause of millions of recalls by auto manufacturers including Honda, Mitsubishi, and GM, among others, multiple class action lawsuits and the bankruptcy of auto parts manufacturer, Takata Corp.
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Individuals, who have been injured by airbags, whether or not the safety devices were working as intended, should collect and document evidence of the full extent of their injuries. Burns may be a significant component of the serious harm that airbag deployment can case and should not be overlooked when plaintiffs seek legal recourse.