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Are airbag injuries common in car accidents?

While the airbags may save you from something far worse, they often produce unexpected injuries in the course of doing their job. These devices have saved many lives, but the need to deploy an airbag in a split second before you would hit a door or steering wheel generates its own set of dangers.

Let's take an example of a car being run off the road by a drunk driver and hitting a telephone pole which causes the airbags to deploy. What sort of injuries commonly result?

First, the force of the airbag can by itself cause a concussion as your brain is banged around inside your skull.

Second, you can suffer tinnitus. Tinnitus is a persistent, disturbing ringing in the ears which can result from the force of the airbag inflator causing increased pressure inside the closed vehicle. The increased pressure causes injury to the driver's inner ear. Dealing with tinnitus is a difficult problem as many people suffering from tinnitus don't initially associate it with the car accident or the airbag deployment.

Third, an airbag often hits people in the face and eye causing pressure injuries such as detached retinas.

Fourth, the speed of the air bag deployment is a forceful event and can cause injuries to muscles and ligaments in the path of the airbag. For example, I recently concluded a case where the client was honking her horn to warn another driver not to back into the car at high speed. The other driver slammed into the client hard enough to cause the airbag to deploy and the client's wrist cartilage and ligaments were torn by the explosion of the airbag.

As a general rule, we do not sue the airbag manufacturer in these cases because the airbag is doing what it is supposed to do. Really, the cause of the airbag deploying and hence the injury are the actions of the driver who hit you.

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