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Dangers of Passenger Seat Airbags

Roberts Wilson, P.A. | July 11, 2023

Driver and passenger seat airbags save lives. They are standard equipment in modern vehicles for a reason, and studies have shown that both drivers and passengers are far safer in airbag-equipped vehicles. With that said, some airbags are more effective than others—and some airbags are more dangerous than others as well. 

In particular, passenger seat airbags present injury risks in many accident scenarios. While passenger seat airbags can save lives, they can also cause serious injuries. In some cases, passengers can actually be worse off if their airbags deploy. Tragically, passenger seat airbags can be especially dangerous for children. As noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Even in a relatively low-speed crash, [an] airbag can inflate, strike [a] car seat, and cause serious brain injury and death.” This is why parents should always place their children’s car seats in the back seats of their vehicles.

At Roberts Wilson, P.A., we’ve helped accident victims throughout Mississippi seek compensation after an accident. If you were hurt in a crash caused by someone else, we want to hear your story. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and more. 

Understanding the Dangers of Passenger Seat Airbags

What makes passenger seat airbags dangerous—or potentially dangerous—for vehicle occupants? Some examples of the risks associated with passenger seat airbags include:

  • Injury Risks for Children – Airbags deploy with extreme force, inflating to protect vehicle occupants within 1/20th of a second of impact. While this extreme force is necessary for airbags to work as intended, it also presents injury risks—especially for children. Even when children no longer need car seats, the risk of suffering airbag-related injuries is still high. This is due to a combination of factors: (i) the fact that children’s bodies are still developing and more prone to injury; and, (ii) the fact that children often sit closer to the dashboard and lower in the seat than adult passengers. 
  • Injury Risks for Relaxed and Sleeping Passengers – To reduce the risk of suffering airbag-related injuries, passengers should “sit upright and as far back as possible.” As a result, if passengers are leaning on the door, have their feet on the dashboard, or are slumped in their seats, they are more likely to suffer airbag-induced trauma. 
  • Injury Risks from Carrying Objects – If passengers are carrying objects in their laps, this can increase their risk of suffering an airbag-related injury as well. While driver airbags create separation between the driver and the steering wheel, passenger airbags can forcefully push objects into passengers’ bodies in the event of a collision. 
  • Injury Risks from Sitting Too Close to the Dashboard – If a driver has both front seat and back seat passengers, the front seat passenger may have no choice but to sit close to the dashboard. When front-seat passengers are sitting close to the dashboard, they can be in the “blast zone” for the frontal airbag, and the force of impact from the airbag itself can cause serious injuries. 
  • Non-Activation of Passenger Seat Airbags – Many modern cars, trucks, and SUVs have sensors that will turn off their passenger-side airbags if not enough weight is detected in the passenger seat. While these systems are designed to protect lighter passengers (who can potentially be at more risk if their airbags deploy), they don’t always work as intended. For example, lighter adults can be at much greater risk for suffering serious or fatal injuries in a high-speed accident if their airbags don’t deploy. 

Common Passenger Injuries Caused By Airbag Deployment

These risks (among others) can lead to a variety of types of injuries in the event of a car accident. When a passenger’s airbags deploy during a collision, the airbags’ deployment can potentially result in injuries including:

  • Burns caused by faulty airbag deployment or friction from the airbag’s surface on the skin
  • Chest injuries (i.e., rib, heart, and lung injuries)
  • Eye and ear injuries
  • Facial injuries (i.e., facial bruises and fractures) 
  • Fractures and bruising in other parts of the body
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage caused by the force of impact from the airbag
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) caused by the force of impact from the airbag

For expecting mothers, airbags can also cause fetal injuries, which can be fatal in some cases. Even so, studies have found that the overall risk of fetal injury is greater without airbags. Studies have also found that wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of airbag-related injuries for all passengers, as airbags are generally designed to work alongside seatbelts to reduce the risk of accident-related injuries.

Have You or a Loved One Suffered an Airbag-Related Injury in Mississippi?

If you or a loved one has suffered an airbag-related injury in Mississippi, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Your first step toward justice begins with a FREE case evaluation with an experienced car accident lawyer at Roberts Wilson, P.A. During your initial consultation, we will listen to your story, assess the merits of your claim, and explain your rights and legal options.

Contact Roberts Wilson, P.A. today online or at (662) 533-9111. We proudly serve our neighbors across Mississippi, including Oxford, Holly Springs, Batesville, Pontotoc, Desoto & Tate counties, and other areas.