If you have been in a motor vehicle collision and suffered severe injuries because your air bag did not deploy, you may wish to discuss this with your injury lawyer who can discuss it with an expert on airbags.

However, before you get too excited about suing a manufacturer for a faulty airbag you should be aware that deployment of an airbag is dependant on many factors. There are many motor vehicle crashes in which there is nothing faulty about the airbag, it’s just that deploying the airbag was not appropriate in the circumstances.

The first of these situations is a low speed collision where the change in acceleration may not be sufficient to deploy the airbag as the Airbag Control Module (ACM) makes the decision that it would be more dangerous to deploy an airbag at 240 km/h then it would be to simply allow the seat belts to provide the safety in a low speed collision.

Note the ACM must decide very quickly. A typical motor vehicle collision duration is 100-200 milliseconds.  On top of that airbags need to be deployed at the very start of the collision, typically within 50 to 65 milliseconds! If the ACM decides in a very high-speed collision that there is insufficient time, then the ACM may conclude it is more dangerous to deploy the airbags because the occupants will already be out of position.  Being struck by an airbag which is deployed at 240 km/h when the occupant is out of position can do more harm than the collision itself.

Another situation we encounter when people think their airbag didn’t deploy is in fact it did deploy. Airbags inflate and deflate very rapidly, in less than a second, so after a collision an occupant, who is already dazed from the collision, may only see a deflated airbag and think it didn’t work when in fact it already inflated and deflated in a blink of an eye.

A third common situation of thinking your airbag did not deploy is that some airbags did deploy, just not all of them.  Most modern vehicles fortunately today have several airbags – front airbags that deploy from the steering wheel or dash, curtain airbags that deploy from the roof rails, side airbags that deploy from the seat back, knee airbags for protection of the driver’s knee. As an aside, if your car doesn’t have all of these airbags, then we suggest you immediately sell it and buy one that does for your own safety.  In any event, with all of these airbags some are designed to deploy only in a lateral impact (side impact), but not a rollover.  So don’t assume because you were in a collision every airbag in your truck or car should have deployed.

Finally, the ACM may decide not to deploy the airbags in a situation where you strike a narrow object such as a pole where there is a lot of intrusion and crushing to the vehicle but there is insufficient deceleration of the vehicle for the ACM to decide to deploy the airbags. This may or may not be appropriate in all situations but that is the proper functioning of the ACM. This is also the situation in Alberta with many over-sized jacked up 4×4 trucks and if you are in a car and strike one of these higher trucks, the smaller cars are overridden by the larger mass and height of the pick-up such that there is insufficient deceleration of the car to warrant deployment of the airbag.

Thus, you can see there are many reasons why airbags may or may not deploy and in the majority of impacts there is a logical reason why the airbag did not deploy. Nevertheless, if your airbag does not deploy in a collision when you think it should have, it is worthwhile to have it investigated by an injury lawyer who can hire a collision reconstruction engineer to investigate it. This is particularly the case when you are the driver who is at fault for the collision and thus you do not have another driver to sue for your injuries. If your airbag did not deploy in a situation when it should have, even though you may be the driver at the fault for the collision, you could still have a cause of action against the manufacturer of the vehicle and the manufacturer of the airbag for a faulty air bag which contributed to your injuries.

Stay tuned for our next blog on Takata airbags.  Despite what we have said here there is a major recent problem with Takata airbags resulting in a massive recall for faulty airbags.