To understand how an airbag can cause chest injuries, it helps to know how these devices work, and the role vehicles that predate 2007 play.
How Airbag Deployment Works
Without getting too technical about the process, a car loses speed very quickly when it hits something, and a specific part (an accelerometer) detects this sudden change in speed. If that change is too great—which is important because we don’t want airbags deploying simply because of normal braking—an electric current causes a heating element to ignite an explosive chemical.
As the chemical burns, a massive amount of harmless gas rushes into a nylon bag that is packed in the steering wheel. This happens rapidly, so the bag blows the plastic cover off the steering wheel as it inflates. Finally, the car’s momentum pushes the driver forward against the bag. Small holes along the airbag’s edges then allow the harmless gas to escape as it deflates.
However, airbags in cars from 2007 and earlier work a bit differently. They’re less sophisticated, use more force, and often cause more serious injuries when they deploy. Additionally, modern airbags are tested on more sizes of crash test dummies, seatbelt configurations, and crash speeds, making them more effective at protecting a wide range of drivers and passengers compared to earlier models.
That doesn’t mean modern airbags don’t ever harm people. Even though they’re less forceful than older models, airbags made after 2007 still require a tremendous amount of force to inflate, which can, and do, cause chest injuries and chest pain. And if the airbags are defective, the risk of serious injury increases. Common defects can include defective impact sensors or inflators, manufacturing defects, bad designs, incorrect repairs, and more.
Common Airbag Injuries
- Chest injuries: Chest injuries can include burns, broken bones, rib fractures, chest pain, soft tissue damage, chest wall injury, internal injuries, and cardiac issues.
- Eye injuries: When the force of an inflating airbag injures an eye, it can be damaged to the point of temporary or even permanent blindness.
- Burn injuries: Abrasions and burns can be caused by the tremendous speed at which airbags inflate. In particular, the arms and face are vulnerable to these kinds of serious injuries.
- Face and head injuries: Bones in our faces are relatively delicate and can be broken by inflating airbags. Included with that is the potential for permanent scarring. And head injuries aren’t always only superficial – concussions and traumatic brain injuries also can occur.
So, what do you need to do for insurance claims and personal injury cases when you sustain a serious injury or chest pain due to an airbag?
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