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Virginia Injury Blog
Sophisticated Auto Technology Poses New Dangers to Motorists

My hometown motivates me to work hard for my client and get results.- John Cooper

Attorney at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers

Sophisticated Auto Technology Poses New Dangers to Motorists

Cars have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. While lots of attention has been paid to self-driving vehicles, there are many other areas of advancement including airbags, restraint systems, accelerators and climate control modules in modern automobiles.

faults in airbags have led to deaths

We think about these as advances that should protect drivers and passengers more.

But there is also greater potential for things to go wrong, leaving the manufacturers hit with product liability lawsuits.

One of the biggest failures in the last two years involves airbags – devices that are meant to protect drivers.

About 40 million vehicles have been recalled in the United States due to defective Takata airbags, reports Automotive News.

How Many Deaths and Injuries Are Linked to Takata Airbags?

At least 10 deaths have been reported in the US and more than 100 injuries have been linked to Takata airbags that are found in multiple models of cars.

Defective airbags can explode without warning when cars are in minor fender-benders, sending shrapnel into drivers and passengers. The problem is particularly acute in more humid climates although no deaths have yet been reported in Virginia.

The problem is linked to the airbag cartridge which uses chemical propellants. An expert report by Harold R. Blomquist into the problem found the oxidizer used in the cartridge by Takata is prone to degrading in humid temperatures. There can be a rise in pressure that leads to an explosion.

Occupant Restraint Controllers

The occupant restraint controller is linked to airbag incidents in some cases. It’s one of the subcomponents of the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS).

A simple defect such as a wiring issue can cause a potentially deadly problem in the case of a wreck. An airbag may fail to deploy, it might deploy when there is no accident, causing potential injury, or it could deploy too late on when the driver is too close to the dashboard or the steering wheel.

Writing in Trial Briefs, North Carolina attorney Noah Abrams of Abrams & Abrams, P.A., warns the result of late deployment can be “catastrophic internal injuries.”

It’s worth noting that we are not necessarily talking about defective Takata airbags in this case. An airbag that’s not defective can become a deadly weapon if it deploys incorrectly due to a fault in the occupant restraint controller.

Seatbelt Systems

Mr. Abrams also raises concerns about seatbelt systems in the article. Seatbelts have become increasingly complicated and sophisticated in recent years. The occupant restraint controllers send signals to pre-tensioners in the event of a crash which tighten the seatbelts. However, the system is integrated with the airbags. If the airbag fails to deploy, the seatbelt may not stop the driver or passenger moving forward and not crashing through the windshield.

When an airbag may be a factor in crash-related injuries, it’s vital that the car or truck is maintained in the same condition after the crash. A site investigation should be done very quickly and first responders should be questioned about issues such as air bag deployment. In such cases manufacturers of components, systems or cars may be sued. Often it’s necessary for us to hire expert witnesses like engineers.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by an airbag or another failure in your car, you may have grounds to sue a manufacturer. Call our products liability team at (757) 455-0077.

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John Cooper

John Cooper is a veteran of personal injury law practice in Virginia. A native Virginian, he was raised in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. He has more than 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases and recently handled the largest auto accident settlement in 2010, according to VA Lawyers Weekly. The award provided $3.5 million to a child whose young father died when the vehicle he was a passenger in was rear-ended by a careless truck driver.

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Jim Hurley

Jim Hurley has been practicing law throughout Virginia for more than two-and-a-half decades. During his career, he has tried more than 100 jury trials — a staggering number — and handled hundreds more that were settled out of court. He is guided by the principle that the client is in charge of his or her case and should be kept fully aware of the litigation process. Jim has been awarded an AV Rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating given, for his practice of law. He was named in Virginia Super Lawyers in 2014, 2015, 2016.

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Bill O’mara

Bill O’Mara started his legal career in 2008, moving back to his home town of Chesapeake, VA. He has practiced in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury and other litigation. He has gained extensive court room and trial experience, including contested trials before judges and juries across Hampton Roads. In 2014, Mr. O’Mara joined Injury Lawyers as an associate attorney. He became a partner in 2017.

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