Burns Caused by Airbag Deployment

Airbags are meant to protect motor vehicle occupants from serious injuries in the event of a car accident – and they do, for the most part. However, some victims suffer burns on exposed parts of the body due to chemicals that are released from inside the airbag when it deploys. These injuries can be included in a car accident claim in Nevada with your Las Vegas personal injury lawyer.

How Do Airbags Work?

A vehicle airbag deploys when it is triggered by a crash sensor. The airbag will suddenly inflate using a chemical reaction between sodium azide and potassium nitrate, which are both present in the inflation system. 

The mixing of these two chemicals when triggered will produce hot blasts of nitrogen gas that inflate the airbag. Powder in the form of talcum powder or cornstarch will also be released from the airbag, which is used to keep the bag lubricated while in storage.

How Do Airbags Cause Burn Injuries?

While airbags are effective in protecting drivers from impact-related injuries in an accident, they can also inflict certain injuries. The mixture of chemicals can reach a dangerous temperature that can deploy an airbag too quickly. A high-velocity deployment could cause friction burns and abrasions where it comes into contact with the driver’s skin. These injuries are especially common on the face, neck and arms.

Chemical burns may also arise from contact with the nitrogen gas that is created by the mixture of sodium azide and potassium nitrate. This gas quickly escapes out of minuscule holes in the airbag after deployment. Exposure to this high-temperature gas can result in chemical burns to the driver or passengers.

In addition, sodium azide is toxic to humans. Sodium hydroxide, which is sometimes used in lieu of sodium azide, is caustic, meaning it is corrosive and can cause chemical burns. Exposure to either of these chemicals from airbag deployment can result in burns on the skin, eye injuries and hair loss.

Other Potential Airbag Injuries

Burns are not the only injuries that are associated with an airbag deploying during a car accident. The force of the deployment itself can be significant enough to cause blunt-force trauma injuries, such as:

  • Broken bones in the face or chest
  • Sternal fractures
  • Cardiovascular injuries
  • Shoulder and forearm injuries
  • Dislocations
  • Bruises and contusions 
  • Scrapes and abrasions 
  • Eye injuries
  • Corneal abrasions
  • Retinal detachments
  • Orbital fractures
  • Ear damage from the sound of the airbag
  • Head injuries
  • Concussions and other brain injuries

While it is true that airbags can significantly reduce the risk of a serious or fatal injury in a car accident, they are often the cause of less serious injuries to various parts of the body.

Recovering Compensation for Airbag-Related Injuries

If your medical evaluation after being involved in a car accident shows that some of your injuries were inflicted by the airbag, you can list these injuries – and any related medical costs, lost wages, or pain and suffering – on your car insurance claim. All injuries that you suffer in a car accident, regardless of the specific details of what caused them, are covered by bodily injury liability coverage. 

You may be eligible for compensation for your airbag injuries from the at-fault driver’s car insurance company. If you need assistance negotiating with an insurance provider, consult with an attorney at Koch & Brim, LLP.