The use of innovative safety devices, like airbags have played a critical role in reducing the number of car accident-related deaths that occur every year. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that front airbags have reduced driver fatalities in front-end accidents by 29 percent and fatalities in front-seat passengers by 32 percent. Side airbags at the head-level have proved even more impactful, reducing the risk of death in driver-side crashes by 38 percent and by as much as 52 percent in drivers of SUVs.
However, while front and side airbags save lives, their use doesn’t come without a certain degree of risk. The speed and force at which airbags deploy, for instance, generates very high temperatures, which can lead to painful and debilitating burn injuries on an occupant’s hands, upper arms, chest, and face.
An airbag system is made up of three distinct parts: the airbag itself, a sensor, and an inflation system. The proper functioning of all three of these parts are necessary to an airbag’s deployment. When the sensor, which is located at the base of the steering wheel, detects rapid deceleration (via an accelerometer), it sends a signal to the airbag’s inflation system. An ignitor in the inflater then triggers an electrical charge, which causes a chemical reaction (where sodium azide and sodium hydroxide explode and convert to nitrogen gas), which then inflates the airbag.
When properly deployed, the airbag will burst from its storage site (in the steering wheel and dashboard), often at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. After the collision, the gas will quickly dissipate through tiny holes in the bag. The entire process, from when the system senses the crash to deployment and deflation happens in around one-twentieth of a second.
There are actually a couple of different types of airbag burns that a person can sustain, including chemical burns and friction burns. Chemical burns occur as a result of the release of certain chemical substances, like sodium azide, inside the airbag upon deployment. The chemical reaction, where these substances convert to nitrogen gas can be explosive and if the bag ruptures, a person could end up being burned by the high-temperature gasses, which are toxic to humans.
The other type of airbag burn that a person could sustain is a friction burn. As we mentioned previously, airbags deploy in a fraction of a second, and at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. While this means that the bag can inflate quickly enough to help cushion an occupant’s head from impact, it also means that a person who comes into contact with an airbag inflating at such high speeds could sustain significant friction burns.
Financial Recovery for an Airbag Burn
Airbag burns can range in severity from minor to third degree burns. Most affect the hands, forearms, face, and chest, which are most likely to come into contact with the airbag upon impact. All, despite severity, are painful and could potentially result in permanent scarring and disfigurement, while the more serious are also at risk of infection. What type of treatment a burn victim requires will depend on the severity of the injury, with some only needing to keep the area clean and dry while it heals and others requiring skin grafts and antibiotics.
Even once a wound has healed, a person could still suffer from scarring and may need physical therapy to regain mobility. In many cases, nerve and muscle damage may be permanent. Fortunately, accident victims who sustain airbag burns can seek compensation for their financial losses from the at-fault party who caused the crash. If, on the other hand, an investigation reveals that the burns were the result of a defect in the airbag system itself, then the manufacturer of that system could also be required to compensate the victim for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Here to Help You Recover Compensation for Your Accident-Related Injuries
While airbags can prevent fatal injuries, they can also end up causing injuries of their own, like burns. Fortunately, like other car accident-related injuries, airbag burns are compensable, so if you suffered an airbag burn in a Florida crash, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced Miami burn injury lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein for help. You can set up an initial consultation with a member of our legal team by calling 305-371-2692 today.