Sometimes a car accident is more than just a car accident. Additional claims may arise if there's something defective about the vehicle, something that enhances a victim's injuries beyond what they should have been. Those are types of products liability claims that are commonly known as "crashworthiness" claims.
The idea is that there may be two levels of fault in a car accident. The first level would be the fault of the other driver or whoever caused the accident. That'd just be a standard car accident case, same as the thousands of motor vehicle accident claims that are pursued throughout Iowa every year. But on rare occasions a second level of liability develops during a car accident if a defect with the vehicle enhances an occupant's injuries beyond that which would normally have been expected in the accident had the vehicle not been defective. That second level of liability implicates the vehicle's manufacturer and the manufacturers or designers of any defective parts or components.
Crashworthiness claims often concern a safety feature in the vehicle, such as seatbelts and airbags, that failed or didn't work properly. The failure of air bags to deploy is a common issue. If an airbag should have deployed in a crash, but didn't, and the airbag failure enhanced the injuries suffered by an occupant in the vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer and any companies involved in the airbag systems design or manufacture could be held liable in a personal injury claim for the occupant's enhanced injuries caused by the airbag failure.
There are three stages of analysis when evaluating an airbag failure claim. First, should the airbag have deployed? Second, did the airbag's failure to deploy enhance the vehicle occupant's injuries in the accident? Third, if the airbag should've deployed and if the airbag failure caused enhanced injuries, why didn't the airbag deploy?
Airbags aren't intended to deploy in all accidents. The collision needs to occur from a certain direction, usually frontal. And it has to occur above a certain speed threshhold. A collision from the wrong angle or below a certain speed is not meant to trigger air bag deployment. Vehicle manufacturers establish the specifications.
The question of whether or not an airbag should've deployed is often more complicated than just considering a vehicle's speed and the direction of a collision. The dynamics of the collision are very important. That includes factors like exactly what the vehicle hit and what happened after the initial contact. For example, a rear-end collision would normally not be expected to cause frontal air bad deployment. But if that initial rear collision pushes the vehicle into another vehicle, a wall, or some other hard object with another force, then the frontal airbags very well should've deployed even though the initial collision was from the rear. In almost every airbag failure case, expert testimony from accident reconstructionists and safety experts will be necessary to prove that airbags should've deployed during the collision at issue.
There are three common causes of an airbag's failure. First, one or more of many possible defects could've caused the airbag's sensors to not properly detect the crash. Second, there could be a defect that prevented the deployment signal from reaching the air bag modules and deploying them. Third, there could be a defect that prevented the air bag modules from deploying correctly.
Please feel free to contact us if you have an airbag failure case that you'd like us to investigate.