Imagine you’re driving on a winter morning. Your spouse and your toddler are in the car, one on the way to work with you, the other destined for day care. The roads are icy – suddenly you lose control of the vehicle. It veers off the road and strikes a tree head-on.

Luckily, in the aftermath there are no broken bones, no bleeding. Everyone is outwardly fine – but the dual front airbags didn’t deploy. You’d noticed an airbag warning light on the dash when you bought the used van a few months ago, but the dealership hadn’t taken care of it – even though you’d pointed it out and they had assured you it would be fixed.

As the weeks go on after the accident, you and your spouse keep experiencing severe neck and back pain. You’re each seeing a chiropractor twice a week, and undergoing a battery of testing.

A woman recently e-mailed me to ask for my advice about this exact scenario. She had two specific legal questions:

“Do I have a case because my airbags didn’t work?”and “Is it possible for the passenger spouse to sue the driver spouse for damages?”

I’ll address these issues in two blog posts (follow the link here to find my answer about suing spouses).

Can I bring a lawsuit if my airbags didn’t work? Maybe…. Maybe not…..

In this woman’s E-mail, she told me that the injuries suffered in the accident were relatively mild– scrapes and bruises– NOT broken bones or other more serious injuries. Given these relatively minor injuries, I had to break it to her that it did NOT make sense to pursue a lawsuit due to the airbags failure to deploy.

Here is what I told her:

I cannot recommend a personal injury lawsuit due to the airbags’ failure to deploy. You should know that airbag cases are notoriously difficult and very expensive to prosecute.

While it certainly sounds as if the dealership failed to ensure that the airbags were working properly, there are two things you would have to do to have a case:

  • You would have to have expert engineering testimony as to WHY the airbags did not deploy.
  • You would have to offer expert medical testimony proving that you would NOT have been injured (or injured less severely) had the airbags deployed properly.

Because experts are very expensive, the only airbag cases we can seriously consider are those with multiple catastrophic injuries or death.

Sad to say, but the potential recovery in a case dramatically impacts those cases that it makes sense to pursue versus those cases we must regretfully decline…..

I had to turn down this case, but it made me realize that there may be other accident victims out there with the same questions. Please feel free to contact me if you or someone you know has been in a car accident. I’ll do my best to answer your questions promptly and accurately. More options are to request copies of the two books I’ve written, one about NY auto accidents and the other, NY auto insurance, and to visit the Ziff Law Firm’s Accidents and Car Crash FAQ’s.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529