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Airbag Defects Cause Increased Injuries and Fatalities

Mar 24, 2008
When a consumer buys an airbag-equipped vehicle, they expect the airbags to deploy properly in the event of an accident. Thousands of lives have been saved by the installation of airbags; however there has been a shocking increase in the number of injuries and fatalities caused by various airbag systems.

Over the years, there have been many technological advances, yet new airbag defects continue to arise. Airbag defects exist in cars, trucks, minivans, and SUV's made by companies such as Ford, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota. All of these companies have experienced significant NHTSA recalls due to the existence of defective airbags.

Since 1997 more than 4,000,000 vehicles have been recalled due to airbag related problems. In addition, there have been millions of formal "airbag defect" complaints made that did not result in recalls. The two major problems include: non-deployment and inadvertent deployment. Inadvertent airbag deployment appears to be used as the main reason for recalls, however, the complaints made by motorists consists mainly of problems related to non-deployment.

An airbag that does not inflate when it is designed to is a common defect found in the manufacture of airbag systems. Recalls and complaints have been directed to manufacturers such as DaimlerChrysler, Honda, and Ford corporations for the non-deployment of airbags at intended times.

- In April 1998, Chrysler Corporation recalled 1,600 Jeep Wranglers due to airbag non-deployment problems. In manual steering Wrangler vehicles, the driver's side airbag "clock spring" wiring harness can break when turned to the "full clock" turn position. In the event of an accident, the airbag does not deploy, increasing the risk of serious injury to the occupant. This recall includes Jeep Wranglers manufactured from January 1996 to July 1997.

- In March of 2006 the NHTSA began investigating DaimlerChrysler Dodge Caravans, Grand Caravans and Chrysler Town and Country minivans due to airbag non-deployment problems. The front airbag sensors may corrode as a result of water seeping into the sensor assembly. The investigation included 805,000 minivans produced from 2005 to 2006.

- There have been multiple complaints against additional DaimlerChrysler models. These models include the 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997, and 1994 Dodge Ram Pickup's, 2000 Dodge Durango, 1999 Dodge Conversion Van, 1998 and 1995 Dodge Neon, 1996 Plymouth Neon, and 1993 Chrysler Concorde.

- There have been excessive complaints made about Ford automobiles due to airbag non-deployment as well. These complaints against Ford include the 2001 Escape, 2000 Taurus, 1998 Escort, 1999 Mustang, 1999 F250 Super Duty, 1998 Windstar, 1996 Explorer, 1994 Probe, and F350 Super Duty pickups.

There have been multiple recalls and complaints due to the inadvertent deployment of airbags. An airbag that deploys at a time that it is not designed to can cause serious injury or death to a vehicle occupant. Recalls and complaints have been directed to manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, and Toyota for problems with airbags that inadvertently deploy.

- In 2000, General Motors Corporation recalled 268,146 Buick Regals and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supremes due to inadvertent airbag deployments. Corrosion of the airbag inflator's internal wiring, which can occur over time, could cause the inadvertent deployment of the driver's airbag. This deployment could occur during vehicle start-up, while the vehicle is parked or idling, or while in operation. This recall includes models produced from May 1994 to June 1996.

- In 2000, Ford Motor Company recalled 3,002 Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers were recalled due to inadvertent deployment. Certain 4-door sport utility vehicles equipped with side airbags have a revised level side crash sensor that could deploy the side airbag if the ignition key is in the "run" position and the seatbelt webbing is forcibly extracted from a locked retractor with a jerking motion. This deployment could occur while the vehicle is idling, or while in operation. This recall includes Explorers and Mountaineer produced in June 2000.

- In 1999, DaimlerChrysler Corporation recalled 860,00 Chrysler Town and Country minivans, Dodge Caravans, Dodge Grand Caravans, Plymouth Voyagers, and Plymouth Grand Voyagers. An intermittent short circuit in the airbag initiator wire can occur shortly after the vehicle is started and could lead to an inadvertent airbag deployment. This recall includes production from 1993 to 1995 for all models.

- In 1999, Chrysler Corporation recalled 263,000 Dodge Rams. On certain van and wagon model vehicles, if water or road salt gets on the interior floor of the vehicle in the proximity of the airbag electronic control module, this module can corrode, which can cause the driver's side airbag to inadvertently deploy and cause serious injury. This recall includes 1995 to 1997 models.

- In 1999, Chrysler Corporation recalled 30,400 Dodge Ram Vans. On certain van used for conversion, if a heavy object strikes the metal casing of the airbag electronic control module, located under the driver's seat, the module could cause the airbag to inadvertently deploy. This recall includes Dodge Ram Van produced in 1998.

- In 1998, General Motors recalled 675,302 Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires. An inadvertent airbag deployment could occur in a low speed crash or when an object strikes the floor pan due to certain calibrations in the airbag's sending and receiving module. This recall includes Cavaliers and Sunfires that were produced form April 1995 to May 1997.

- In 1998, General Motors recalled 102, 627 Cadillac Eldorados, Devilles, Selvilles, and Concours. Inadvertent deployment can occur due to water intrusion into the Sensing and Diagnostics Module, located below the driver's seat. This recall included models produced from April 1994 to February 1995.

- In 1997, Chrysler Corporation recalled 125,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees, Jeep Wranglers, Dodge Dakota Trucks, Dodge Neons, Plymouth Neons, and Dodge Vipers. The electrical circuit design allows the potential for an inadvertent airbag deployment when the vehicle's ignition is turned off. This recall includes models produced from July 1996 to September 1996.

- In 1997, Toyota Motor Company, Ltd recalled 61,202 Toyota Corollas. If the airbag computer in a vehicle experiences a mechanical shock within a very short time after the engine is started (e.g. rapidly moving the front seat back against the stops or the sudden release of the parking brake), the airbag can deploy inadvertently. This recall includes Corollas produced from May 1996 to December 1996.

These are only a portion of the recalls and complaints that have taken place due to airbag defects. Defective airbags can cause serious injury, yet manufacturers continue to cut corners and reduce costs at the expense of public safety. The standards set by the NHTSA are obviously not adequate. There are many airbag systems that pass the current crash test requirements despite the recalls and criticism they have endured over the years. This epidemic must be stopped. The government must demand more stringent requirements from car manufacturers.
About the Author
John Bisnar is a partner at Newport Beach Personal Injury Law Firm Bisnar Chase. The Bisnar Chase law firm has dedicated their practice to victims of serious injuries due to defective products, negligence and malpractice.

Visit http://www.bestattorney.com or call 888-265-0161
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