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How Can Airbags Help and Hurt in a Car Accident?

How Can Airbags Help and Hurt in a Car Accident?

Airbags are a critical safety feature in modern vehicles, designed to protect occupants in the event of a car accident. While they have undoubtedly saved countless lives, it’s important to understand both the protective benefits and potential risks associated with airbags. This article explores how airbags can help and hurt during car accidents, providing valuable insights for drivers.

The Protective Role of Airbags

Airbags are designed to deploy in milliseconds during a collision, cushioning occupants from impact with the vehicle’s interior and preventing more severe injuries.

  • Preventing Head and Neck Injuries: Airbags, especially frontal and side airbags, significantly reduce the risk of head and neck injuries during collisions.
  • Reducing Impact with Vehicle Interior: By providing a buffer between occupants and the vehicle’s interior, airbags prevent injuries caused by striking the dashboard, steering wheel, or side panels.
  • Complementing Seatbelts: Airbags work in tandem with seatbelts, further reducing the risk of serious injuries. Seatbelts restrain occupants, while airbags cushion the impact.

Statistical Impact on Safety

Studies have shown that airbags substantially decrease the risk of fatalities in accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): “The combination of an airbag plus a lap and shoulder belt reduces the risk of death in frontal crashes by 61%, compared with a 50% reduction for belts alone and a 34% reduction for airbags alone.”

The Risks Associated with Airbags

Despite their benefits, airbags can also cause injuries, particularly if they deploy under inappropriate circumstances or if occupants are not properly positioned.

  • Deployment Injuries: The force of an airbag deploying can cause injuries, especially to the face, chest, or arms. These injuries are generally less severe than those they prevent but can be significant, particularly for smaller or closer-seated passengers.
  • Improper Use or Malfunction: Issues such as faulty sensors, manufacturing defects, or improper maintenance can lead to airbags deploying at the wrong time or failing to deploy when needed.
  • Children and Airbags: Children seated in the front seat are particularly at risk from airbag injuries, which is why safety guidelines recommend children under 13 sit in the back seat.

Legal Considerations in Airbag-Related Injuries

In cases where airbags cause injuries due to malfunctions, manufacturing defects, or improper deployment, victims may have legal recourse. Personal injury laws in Virginia allow individuals to seek compensation for injuries caused by defective products, including airbags.

Role of Personal Injury Lawyers

Law firms specializing in personal injury, like Burnett & Williams, can assist victims of airbag-related injuries. They can help navigate the complexities of product liability laws and pursue claims against manufacturers or other responsible parties.

Preventive Measures for Safer Airbag Use

To maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of airbags, the following measures are recommended:

  • Proper Seating Position: Drivers and passengers should sit as far back as is practical and comfortable, maintaining at least 10 inches of distance from the airbag cover.
  • Wearing Seatbelts: Always wear a seatbelt, as it works in conjunction with airbags to provide maximum protection.
  • Child Safety: Children under 13 should ride in the back seat, and child seats must be installed according to manufacturer instructions.


Airbags are a vital safety feature in vehicles, significantly reducing the severity of injuries in accidents. However, they also carry risks that drivers and passengers should be aware of. Understanding these risks and taking preventive measures can help maximize the protective benefits of airbags. In cases of injury due to airbag malfunction or defects, legal options are available, and personal injury attorneys play a crucial role in seeking justice and compensation. Contact Burnett & Williams to learn more.