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.
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.
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.