Often, when perspective clients call Mr. Gelb to discuss their particular accident, they will mention that their airbag(s) did not deploy, and that they would like for Mr. Gelb to consider a claim against the automobile manufacturer and/or the airbag manufacturer for the defective product. Mr. Gelb gently informs the caller that if another vehicle caused the accident to occur in the first place, due to their negligence, the claim will have a particular value, regardless of who ultimately pays the claim (the carrier for the other vehicle, the client's own vehicle manufacturer, or the manufacturer of the airbag). Pursuing the manufacturer rarely makes economic sense, and the vehicle would have to be inspected by an engineer and that engineer would have to be willing to testify about the defective product, and the cost for their time would likely be in the thousands of dollars. More often than not, it is advisable to pursue the claim against the at-fault vehicle's automobile insurer.
Naturally, there are situations where a person is injured solely because the air bag deployed when it shouldn't have. This may be due to a design defect, or a manufacturing defect. In either case, if the injuries are significant enough, the vehicle will need to be inspected by one of Mr. Gelb's experts who will be able to state, within a reasonable degree of certainty, what caused the unprompted deployment. Once negligence is determined, Mr. Gelb will send a letter of representation to the manufacturer of the airbag, or potentially of certain components of the airbag, and attempt to resolve the claim amicably. If that is not possible, the case will likely need to be litigated. In certain situations, the client may be limited to resolving the claim via binding arbitration. Please be sure to speak to a personal injury lawyer, such as Roger Gelb, of Gelb & Gelb, P.C., who is experienced in airbag injury claims.
Mr. Gelb represented a woman who was struck head on by a drunk driver in Hyattsville, MD. The woman's injuries included cervical and lumbar strain, significant bruising (mostly to the chest as a result of the seatbelt), and a small cut on her lip. The airbags didn't deploy in the accident, and very likely should have. The woman's medical expenses totaled only (relatively) $2,000.00, with no lost wages. The woman was fortunate enough tto make a complete recovery in only a few weeks. The client was adamant that she wanted to have the airbag system examined by an engineer to determine whether a potential product liability claim was viable. Mr. Gelb explained to the client that the cost of the examination by the expert may be in excess of the value of the claim, and that there was sufficient coverage available under the drunk driver's policy (and confirmed this discussion in writing). Nonetheless, the client insisted and an expert was retained who examined the airbags in the car and determined that there was a defect in the system responsible for deployment. The cost of the evaluation was $3,000.00. Within a few months of the accident, Mr. Gelb secured an offer of $20,000.00 for the client, who again, had a made a complete recovery, both physically and emotionally. There was no residual scarring nor pain. The medical expenses were paid under the first-party coverage, so the client had no bills to pay, except the expert's fee. The insurer of the drunk driver insisted that the a specific Release be signed by the client, who wanted to accept the offer. The client signed the Release, and received her net, minus the engineer's fee. The Release precluded the client from making any additional claims; however, the carrier pursued contribution from the manufacturer of the airbag system. If the carrier was successful in their endeavor to share the expense of settling, the client's payment to the expert only benefited that carrier, and not herself in any way. So, claimants be aware!