Category: Car Accidents – CA

If Airbags Did Not Deploy in a Car Accident, Is the Car Company Liable?

Airbags are designed to keep drivers and passengers protected. Vehicles are heavily marketed for their safety features, which includes having effective airbags.

Crash test results are boasted about by manufacturers who use successful results to attract buyers because they are deemed the “safest” car on the market. However, sadly, not all airbags are safe and there can be catastrophic injuries or even death if one fails to deploy during an accident. 

If you were in an accident and your airbag did not deploy, you may have a personal injury claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle. You could also have a case against the manufacturer of the airbag or any company that inspected the vehicle for safety.

According to Michele Mirman, a car accident lawyer in New York City, “These companies have a duty to the consumer to make a safe product. If they violate that responsibility, they can be held accountable.”

How Do Airbags Deploy?

Cars and other automobiles are built with a number of safety measures, including airbags. Airbags can be both on the driver’s side and the passenger’s side. The purpose of an airbag is to reduce the physical effects of an automobile accident. More specifically, they are designed to reduce head injuries by cushioning the neck and head during the forward movement of a collision.

Airbags are most commonly located behind the steering wheel or the passenger side dashboard. They can also be located on the sides of the vehicle. Airbags rely on two things: timing and a small explosive charge. The airbag begins to inflate the second the vehicle begins to slow down as the result of a collision.

Each airbag has an accelerometer attached to it that detects the deacceleration of speed. If it is faster than a normal breaking pattern, the accelerometer will activate the airbag circuit.

The airbag circuit passes through a heated electrical current that ignites a slow chemical explosive. This explosion creates a harmless gas that fills the airbag when it deploys. The airbag begins to deflate the second it makes contact with the driver’s or passenger’s head. If functioning correctly, the airbag should be completely deflated by the time the automobile comes to a total stop.

What Causes Airbags to Not Deploy?

Speed or Type of Crash

Airbags do not deploy in every collision. One main reason they may not is the nature of the crash. The majority of airbags are most effective in moderate to severe crashes involving the front of the vehicle. Airbags generally deploy if the speed is at least 8 to 14 mph.

If the crash is minor or at a low speed, it may not trigger the circuit that deploys the airbag. Also, since most airbags are located at the front of the car, they may not deploy if the collision is to the back or side of the vehicle.    

Design or Manufacturing Defect

Defects in the manufacturing or design of the airbag may also be at fault. Types of defects include airbag sensor defects and defective electrical components. These defects are usually to blame when the airbag deploys early, late, or unexpectedly when there is no collision.

If the defect is great enough, the airbag could even explode. Additionally, there could be a defect in the design of the airbag itself which led to an injury because it did not deploy correctly.

Installation Errors

Finally, there may have been an issue with installation or safety check that caused the airbag to not deploy. A common example of this is car manufacturers cutting costs in the installation by making the location of the airbag ineffective because wires were routed through areas that were vulnerable to being severed or damaged.

It is also possible that a negligent safety check was performed that could have found the defect. However, the defect went unnoticed because the check was not done correctly or to the company standard.  

Do You Have a Personal Injury Case?

You may have a personal injury case if you have an injury that was caused by an airbag malfunction. Usually, these injuries are caused by the airbag not deploying or deploying at an incorrect time.

Examples of these types of injuries include neck whiplash, face lacerations, hearing damage, broken bones, soft tissue damage, brain injuries, concussions, organ damage, or even death. 

To prove that an airbag or automobile manufacturer is to blame for the injuries caused by a defective airbag, the law of strict liability applies. Automobile and airbag manufacturers have a responsibility for providing a product that is properly designed and tested to ensure customer safety.

To be successful in a personal injury claim, you will need to prove two things:

  1. The airbag had an unreasonably dangerous defect and, 
  2. The specific defect caused injury or harm.

If you can prove these things, you may be able to recover monetary compensation to help recover from your injury. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

See a Doctor After Your Accident. Your Health and Injury Claim Will Thank You

Going to the hospital is one of the most important things you can do after a car accident. This is true even if you don’t think that you’ve been injured badly in the crash. In fact, it may be even more important to go if you think you’re okay. Why? There are three primary reasons.

Three Reasons You Need to See a Doctor Immediately After an Accident

First, if left untreated, injuries can pose a serious threat to your health and safety. Going to the doctor right away will help to rule out any internal injuries that wouldn’t have been able to identify on your own. Your doctor can make sure that you get the medical treatment you need to keep you safe.

Second, going to the hospital will help to establish a link between the accident and your injuries. You’re only entitled to recover compensation for injuries that were caused by your accident. According to Boris Lavent, a car accident lawyer, “Getting your injuries documented right away will help to strengthen the argument that they were a result of the crash.”

Lavent added,  “The longer you wait to see a doctor, the more vulnerable your claim begins.” The defendant may argue that there’s no hard evidence to show that the accident caused your injuries. A medical evaluation completed shortly after your accident will help to support your case.

Third, seeing a doctor for an assessment will help to show that you took reasonable steps to identify your injuries after the accident. This is important, because some injuries may not be evident right away. In fact, you may think that you’re perfectly fine until days, weeks, or months later when you begin to experience symptoms.

In California, you have two years to file a lawsuit for damages after an accident. What happens if you don’t realize that you’ve been injured until the deadline to file has come and gone? Delayed discovery of your injuries could allow you to file a lawsuit after the initial statute of limitations has expired.

However, it’s important to note that you must have failed to discover the injury despite reasonable efforts to do so.

Car Accident Injuries That May Not Show Up Right Away

Some car accident injuries will be very obvious after an accident. You’ll probably know that you’ve broken a bone or dislocated a joint. However, other injuries may not be clear to you right away. In fact, you may not even begin to experience symptoms until long after the accident.

Soft Tissue Injury: Soft tissue injuries involve damage to the muscle, tendons, and/or ligaments. This can include bruising, sprains, strains, and whiplash. That’s right. Whiplash, one of the most common car accident injuries, is a soft tissue injury that often goes unnoticed right away.

It’s important to keep an eye out for any common signs of a soft tissue injury, including limited mobility, painful movement, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and swelling.

Head Injury: Sometimes car accident victims will not know that they’ve suffered a serious head injury. This is particularly true if the victim did not seek medical attention after their accident. It’s also easy to dismiss the symptoms of a head injury.

A victim may simply believe that their discomfort is normal or brought on by stress. In truth, however, signs of a head injury likely indicate that you have a head injury. Seek medical attention immediately if you begin to experience headaches, loss of consciousness, blurred vision, difficulty speaking, limited mobility, unexplained anger or irritability, or seizures.

Emotional Trauma: You’re not only at risk of suffering physical injuries in a car accident. Victims, particularly those involved in violent crashes, can experience severe emotional trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is incredibly common after an accident.

However, the signs and symptoms of PTSD often take time to manifest. A victim may not truly identify the extent of their trauma until long after the accident. Signs of PTSD may include guilt, loneliness, withdrawal from social activities, hostility and agitation, insomnia, and flashbacks.

Back Injury: A car accident can be very violent. Your body can be subjected to extreme shock and trauma. This can pose a threat to your back and spine. However, you may not notice that you’ve suffered a back injury until the accident is in your rearview mirror.

Back injuries can, and often do, become worse over time. It’s important to make sure that your injury is treated promptly. See a doctor if you experience a loss of mobility or begin to experience swelling, bruising, or pain in the back.

When you’re injured in a car accident you may have the right to recover compensation. You can maximize your financial award by supporting your case with as much evidence as possible. Medical records and reports can be incredibly persuasive when your attorney is at the negotiating table. Take the time to see a doctor after your accident. You’ll be able to keep yourself safe and strengthen your legal case at the same time.

Car Accident with an Uninsured Motorists in California

Have you been involved in a California car accident with an uninsured driver? You may be entitled to compensation. However, it can be difficult to recover the full amount of money to which you are entitled. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case will help to ensure you are properly compensated for your accident-related injuries. See our guide on how to find a good personal injury lawyer in California for more information.

Minimally-Acceptable Car Insurance Coverage in California

California law requires all drivers to purchase and maintain minimally-acceptable car insurance coverage for all vehicles registered with the state. Minimally-acceptable coverage requires:

  • $15,000 (death or injury of one person)
  • $30,000 (death or injury of multiple people), and
  • $5,000 (property damage).

When a driver is involved in an accident, their car insurance policy can be used to cover the cost of bodily injury and property damage, up the amount of their policy limit. Drivers who do not carry 15/30/5 coverage are in violation of the law.

Uninsured vs. Underinsured Drivers

Even though all California drivers are required to purchase and maintain minimally-acceptable car insurance coverage, not everyone does. In fact, approximately 13 percent of all drivers on the road are “uninsured.” This means that they have no car insurance coverage to protect them or others in the event of an accident.

Other drivers have some insurance, but not enough to satisfy California’s legal requirement for what is acceptable. These drivers are considered “underinsured.”

When you are involved in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, things can be complicated.

What Can I Do If I’m Injured By an Uninsured Driver?

If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, there are two main options for recovering damages. First, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurer for benefits. Second, you have the right to file a personal injury claim for damages.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC)

California state law requires all insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) to all policyholders. The purpose of UMC is to cover the cost of your injuries and property damage if you happen to be in a crash with an underinsured or uninsured driver.

While you are not legally obligated to purchase UMC, it can be incredibly beneficial if you are in a crash and subsequently faced with expensive medical bills, lost wages, and costly car repairs.

How does UMC work? It depends on whether the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured:

Uninsured: If the at-fault driver is uninsured, your UMC benefits will essentially take the place of the insurance policy that the other driver should have had. The UMC benefits will be capped at whatever your standard policy coverage amount is. So, if you carry minimally-acceptable 15/30/5 coverage, your UMC will be capped at 15/30/5.

Underinsured: If the at-fault driver is underinsured, your UMC benefits will be used to supplement the at-fault driver’s policy. If the driver only had $10,000 in bodily injury coverage, your UMC would kick in to cover the $5,000 the other driver did not have.

It is important to understand that even though you have UMC, your insurance company will want to limit any benefits that you are awarded. They will try to undervalue your claim and pay out as little as possible. You do have the right to contest their decision by requesting an arbitration hearing. Hiring an attorney to help you navigate your uninsured motorist claim will help you get the money you deserve.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, or if you do not think your UMC benefits will cover the full extent of your damages, you have the right to pursue a civil legal claim. However,  if the uninsured driver could not afford insurance, they may not have the assets or resources to pay monetary damages awarded in a lawsuit.

Does this mean you should not consider a personal injury lawsuit? No. Other at-fault parties with deeper pocket may be able to get you the money you need. In California, more than one person can be liable for an accident. Each person is simply held accountable to the degree they contributed to the accident and/or injury.

Potentially liable parties, in addition to the uninsured driver, include:

  • Companies responsible for defective products
  • Third-party drivers
  • Motorcyclists
  • Pedestrians
  • Bicyclists
  • Trucks
  • Uber and Lyft drivers, or
  • State, county, or local governments.

It is important to thoroughly investigate your accident to determine all potentially liable parties.

I’ve Been Injured By an Uninsured Driver. What Should I Do?

It is important to treat an accident involving an uninsured driver as you would any other type of crash. The things you do immediately after your accident will affect any future legal claims you decide to pursue.

Report the Accident: Reporting the accident is crucial. Make sure that police are dispatched to the scene and complete a Traffic Collision Report. This report may not be admissible as evidence in court, but it can be incredibly helpful to your attorney. It will contain information about your accident that will likely be lost or forgotten over time (e.g., weather conditions, traffic, eye-witnesses).

Seek Medical Treatment: Your health and safety should be your first priority. A doctor will make sure that all of your injuries are properly diagnosed and treated, reducing the risk of life-threatening complications. The medical report will be useful in establishing a link between your accident and injuries.

Notify Your Insurance Company: Make sure that you tell your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident right away. They will do everything they can to minimize the benefits you recover. Hesitating to report the accident may negatively affect your recovery.

Hire an Attorney: While you should notify your insurance company about the crash, it is important to limit any further communication. The insurance company will try to get you to accept an early offer to prevent you from retaining an attorney. They know that your chances of maximizing the benefits you receive are greatest when you have an attorney at your side.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney in Your Area

Have you been involved in a California car accident? Was the other driver underinsured or uninsured? The sooner you act, the better your chances of getting the money you deserve. Call an attorney in your jurisdiction today to request a free consultation.