The Role of Seatbelts in Mitigating Airbag-Related Injuries

While airbags are important safety equipment for protecting drivers and passengers during serious car accidents, airbags aren’t enough on their own. Airbags are designed to work with seatbelts—not instead of them—as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains:

“Airbags reduce the chance that your upper body or head will strike the vehicle’s interior during a crash. To avoid an air-bag-related injury, make sure you are properly seated and remember—airbags are designed to work with seatbelts, not replace them.”

As a result, seatbelts play an important role in preventing airbag-related injuries. But, even if a driver or passenger is wearing a seatbelt during a collision, this won’t necessarily guarantee safety from an airbag injury. This also means that if an unbelted driver or passenger is involved in a serious collision, the fact that he or she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt doesn’t necessarily mean that his or her airbag-related injuries could have been prevented. With this in mind, regardless of the circumstances involved, if you or a loved one has been injured by an airbag in a crash, you should speak with an airbag injury lawyer about your legal rights.

How Airbags and Seatbelts Are Supposed to Work Together to Prevent Serious Injuries

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: When a vehicle is involved in a serious collision, two things should happen in quick succession. First, the seatbelt pretensioner in each occupied seat should tighten the driver’s or passenger’s seatbelt immediately. Second, the vehicle’s crash sensors should trigger the airbags for each occupied seat to deploy. This should happen almost immediately as well—in about 1/20th of a second or roughly the blink of an eye.

When seatbelts and airbags both work how they are supposed to, this can provide significant protection even in a very serious crash. Seatbelts keep drivers and passengers in a position where their airbags can protect them. If a seatbelt fails (or if a driver or passenger is unbelted), the driver or passenger can get too close to a front or side-impact airbag before it deploys, and this can significantly increase the risk of an airbag-related injury.

Why Seatbelts Can’t Prevent All Airbag-Related Injuries

But, as we mentioned above, even wearing a seatbelt won’t necessarily provide protection against all airbag-related injuries. So, why is this the case?

Simply put, airbags don’t always work how they are supposed to. Airbags can—and do—fail, and they can fail in various ways.

This is especially true of defective airbags manufactured by Takata and ARC. Tens of millions of vehicles equipped with Takata and ARC airbags and sold over the past 25 years in the United States are currently subject to recalls. While ARC has disputed that its airbags are defective, Takata has acknowledged the issues with its airbags. These issues are now well-known to cause two primary types of failures:

  • Airbag Non-Deployment – In some cases, defective airbags simply don’t deploy. This can be extremely dangerous, and since modern seatbelts are designed to work with airbags, non-deployment can lead to serious (or even fatal) injuries even when drivers and passengers are properly belted.
  • Airbag Explosion – Defective airbags have also been known to explode in some cases. Rather than deploying properly, defective Takata and ARC airbags explode with extreme force, sending shrapnel, metal fragments and dangerous chemicals flying throughout the cabin. When drivers and passengers are belted in, their seatbelts end up holding them in a position that exposes them to trauma during airbag explosions.

Both of these issues—airbag non-deployment and airbag explosion—can put drivers and passengers at risk regardless of whether they are wearing their seatbelt at the time of a collision. This is why Takata, ARC and vehicle manufacturers have faced numerous airbag-related lawsuits, and it is why you should speak with an airbag injury lawyer if you have any reason to suspect that your (or a loved one’s injuries) may be airbag-related.

Additionally, while seatbelts are designed to help prevent airbag-related injuries in most scenarios, there are exceptions. In certain crash scenarios, wearing a seatbelt can actually increase the risk of certain types of injuries. Unfortunately, these scenarios are virtually impossible to predict. Overall, seatbelts are more likely to do good than harm (provided that the vehicle’s airbags work properly), and this is why wearing a seatbelt is generally recommended—and required in most states.

Filing a Claim for Airbag Injuries If You Were (or Weren’t) Wearing a Seatbelt

Filing a claim for airbag injuries is unlike filing a claim for injuries from other accident-related causes. This is why it is important to have an experienced airbag injury lawyer on your side. Since airbag-related injuries can happen both with and without seatbelts, you should speak with a lawyer regardless of whether you or your loved one was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will gather all of the evidence needed to prove your legal rights. This includes evidence that proves why you or your loved one suffered airbag-related injuries (i.e., because an airbag failed to deploy or exploded), as well as evidence demonstrating that there was nothing you or your loved one could have done to prevent these injuries from happening. Your lawyer will also gather evidence of your present and future financial and non-financial losses, and then your lawyer will use this evidence to seek just compensation on your behalf.

Talk to an Airbag Injury Lawyer About Your Legal Rights for Free

If you need to know more about filing a claim for airbag-related injuries, we strongly encourage you to get in touch. We handle cases on behalf of belted and unbelted drivers and passengers nationwide. To learn about your legal rights in a free and confidential consultation, give us a call or contact us online today.