Car accidents are high on the list of unfortunate experiences. Even minor ones can result in injuries, property damage, and lost wages. And — if the crash was major — you’re often left facing astronomical medical bills and protracted litigation. While in some instances you may be able to pinpoint liability — e.g. someone running a red light or drinking and driving — there can be circumstances that may leave you wondering about who could be held responsible for the damages. Such is the case when airbags fail to deploy.
Who Is Liable if My Airbags Don’t Deploy in a Car Accident?
Federal law requires all motor vehicles sold in the United States to have airbags to protect both front seats. And, since 1987, this practice has saved more than 50,000 lives. They are specifically designed to work as supplemental protection to seatbelts and are meant to deploy in moderate to severe motor vehicle accidents. If they fail to deploy, the culprit could be the car or the airbag manufacturer. That said, there are additional instances that could explain an airbag’s failure to deploy. These include:
- When the motor vehicle doesn’t detect a person on the front passenger seat
- When there’s a child sitting in the front passenger seat
- When the accident was a fender bender
- The car has previously been involved in an accident where the airbags deployed and were never replaced.
If none of the factors listed above apply to your specific scenario, a malfunction may be to blame. In addition to not deploying during a moderate to severe accident, airbag malfunctions could also cause airbags to deploy too late or deploy accidentally when they weren’t supposed to — which could also cause serious injuries. \
There are three causes of action against a car or airbag manufacturer — or against another third party — for injuries sustained during an accident. These include:
This cause of action will apply if a manufacturer released into the market a defective product. Regardless of whether it was the airbag or the car manufacturer, if you sustained injuries due to the defect in the airbags, you have a claim for strict liability. This applies even if the manufacturer didn’t know about the defect at the time they sold their product. That being said, in some instances, the manufacturer realizes there was a defect in the airbag, and they’ll issue recall notices to get the defect repaired. If you fail to heed the recall notices and later sue the manufacturer, the manufacturer will argue that you were partly at fault for the injuries. This would bring up the issue of comparative negligence. In Florida, if a court determines you were, say 40% at fault for the accident, you can only recover 60% of your losses from the defendant.
A cause of action for negligence exists when you can prove four elements — duty, breach, causation, and damages. Every car and airbag manufacturer has a duty to provide airbags that work well. If they fail to open in a moderate to severe accident and the injuries you sustained were caused by the airbag’s failure to deploy, all elements are met. In addition, a car’s mechanic could be held liable if you’ve previously taken your car to a shop specifically to address airbag issues. This could be to check a warning light on your dashboard or replace airbags that have previously deployed, to name some examples.
Breach of Warranty
When you enter into a sales agreement to purchase a motor vehicle, there are three warranties that come into play.
1. Express warranty. These are the terms that are expressly included in writing in the sales contract — which is yet another reason why it’s crucial to read all the terms of a contract prior to signing. These specifically apply to your car dealership, since it’s the entity with whom you have a contractual relationship.
2. Implied warranty of merchantability. These are warranties that are reasonably expected by a buyer — e.g. expecting all features to work if the car is new or preowned certified. This applies to your car dealership, as well as the car and airbag manufacturers.
3. Implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. These refer to warranties made when the buyer specifically asks for a type of motor vehicle to fit a need — such as being able to drive it in rough terrain or with additional traction for driving on wet surfaces. This applies to either the dealership if you requested specific features and/or the car manufacturer if they advertise that the car is designed to fit your particular needs.
Call Us at Clark Law for a Consultation
There are many factors that affect the outcome of a case. If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. We’ll consider all circumstances to determine your best next step. We can also ensure that you receive proper compensation for any present as well as future medical expenses relating to your neck injuries.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.