Recent Blog Post

What Should You Do If An Airbag Caused An Injury?

Steven Matz
January 19, 2023 | Car Accident

Key Takeaways

  • Airbags are intended to protect drivers and passengers from colliding with the vehicle’s interior or other objects.
  • The force and energy required to deploy an airbag in fractions of a second can cause injuries.
  • The chemicals that deploy an airbag can cause burns and other injuries.
  • Michigan’s no-fault law allows accident victims to recover damages for injuries caused by properly functioning airbags.
  • Accident victims may be able to obtain damages from manufacturers for injuries caused by defective airbags.

From 1987 to 2017, vehicle airbags saved over 50,000 lives — enough people to fill every seat at a major league ballpark. Yet, despite their critical role in your safety, airbags can often cause injuries during a car accident. If you are involved in a car crash and sustain injuries from an airbag, do not hesitate to call the car accident attorneys at Matz Injury Law. We can help you put a true dollar amount to your injuries, fight insurance for a fair settlement, and even file a car accident lawsuit if needed. Call us at 866-226-6833 to set up a free consultation.

How Do Airbags Work?

Frontal airbags are tucked inside the steering wheel and front passenger side panel (in the dashboard). Many passenger vehicles today also contain side-impact airbags located in the doors. When an accident occurs, a crash sensor detects the impact and deploys the airbags. This deployment will usually occur when you are in a near head-on or direct head-on collision with another vehicle or structure. The timing of this deployment is crucial to protecting the driver and passenger from severe injuries.

If the impact is severe enough, it can trigger an internal ignitor, producing a gas, such as nitrogen, that fills the airbag in approximately 1/20th of a second. The airbag will then deflate quickly, potentially releasing chemicals and dust as it does so. In some instances, a crash sensor can malfunction, allowing an incorrect deployment of the airbag, which can result in serious injury.

Do Airbags Hurt More Than They Save?

man holding the back of his neck after whiplash in a car accident

Airbags protect you and your passengers from slamming into objects or the vehicle’s interior during impact. While airbags can cause injuries, they usually help prevent more severe and often potentially fatal injuries. Bruises and burns from an airbag are generally less deadly than being thrown through the windshield onto the pavement.

The energy required to inflate an airbag can cause injuries — sometimes including fatal injuries — to drivers or passengers who are too close to where the airbag deployment area. Airbags killed around 290 people from 1990 to 2008. Most of the people killed were not wearing seatbelts, which put them close to the airbag just before deployment.

Serious airbag-related injuries are rare today, thanks to changes in government regulations. Faulty airbag systems can still cause injuries, though, due to:

  • Failure of the driver’s airbag to deploy
  • Incorrect timing or amount of force for the deployment
  • Inclusion of defective airbag parts

What is Airbag Burn, and How Do You Treat It?

Drivers and passengers can suffer chemical and friction-related burns due to airbag deployment. When a crash sensor detects an impact, the following occurs:

  • An electrical charge ignites an interior chemical, usually sodium hydroxide or sodium azide.
  • This chemical converts to a nitrogen gas and inflates the airbag.
  • The airbag might rupture, releasing the hot gas.
  • Friction burns can result from contact with the airbag, while the gas can cause chemical burns.

Airbag burns require prompt medical attention. Be sure to follow all care instructions from your healthcare provider. Change bandages as directed and keep an eye out for signs of infection.

What Are the Most Common Airbag Injuries in Michigan?

Airbag deployment, while meant to protect and save lives, can sometimes lead to injury. Some of the most common airbag injuries in Michigan include the following.

  • Head, neck, and brain injuries: The sheer force of the airbag deploying can cause traumatic brain injuries, concussions, swelling of the brain, whiplash, or other neck injuries.
  • Eye injuries: The eyes are directly in the airbag’s path and can take on the full force of its deployment. This can lead to vision loss and even permanent blindness. A powder released during deployment can also lead to eye irritation.
  • Dental injuries: Impact from the airbag can break, crack, chip, or loosen teeth. It can also knock them out completely.
  • Fractures: The force required to deploy an airbag can cause broken bones in areas like the jaw, upper extremities, wrists, ribs, and clavicles.
  • Cuts and bruises: Airbag deployment can cause cuts, abrasions, and bruises on your face, head, neck, and upper torso. The airbag can turn eyeglasses into shrapnel that causes further injuries.
  • Hearing damage and tinnitus: An igniter creates a small explosion to deploy the airbag. It produces a sound that can reach 160 decibels. This is beyond what the human ear can process without sustaining hearing damage.
  • Chemical burns: The airbag’s igniter causes it to fill with gas. Collision with the airbag can lead to chemical burns on the face, hands, arms, or chest. These burns can be second- or third-degree, requiring immediate medical treatment.
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How to Prevent Airbag Injuries

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides the following tips for avoiding airbag injuries:

  • Sit upright with your arms to your sides.
  • Sit 10 inches or more away from the center of the steering wheel.
  • Put children in the back seat.
  • Use the appropriately sized car seat.
  • Always wear a seatbelt.

What Should I Do If I am Injured By My Airbag During a Michigan Car Accident?

In the aftermath of a car accident, thoughts and events can quickly become overwhelming. Yet, there are steps you need to take if injured by your airbag.

1. Call Emergency Services as Soon as Possible

Following the accident, call emergency services. Burns and other injuries are serious and should be treated as soon as possible. First responders will be able to start treating you at the accident scene, which can be essential to the severity of the injury and required healing time. Immediate treatment for burns, in particular, will be highly beneficial.

2. Save Your Airbag

If you sustain injuries due to a faulty airbag or crash sensor, it is important that you keep them to serve as evidence. Even if you are unsure whether or not it is faulty, save it anyway for examination. Your car accident attorney will be able to use this as evidence in your injury claim or a personal injury lawsuit.

3. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

Once you receive medical attention for your injuries, contact a personal injury attorney with experience representing those injured in car accidents for legal advice.

Can I File a Claim If My Airbag Caused an Injury During a Car Accident?

Injured woman speaking with her personal injury lawyer.

If an airbag is functioning correctly but still causes injuries in a car crash, you can file a claim for injuries under Michigan’s no-fault law. This allows you to recover damages from your insurance company. You might be able to sue the at-fault driver if you suffered severe injuries.

Defective airbags can also cause injuries. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a recall of millions of cars with Takata airbags because of serious or fatal injuries. You may be able to sue the automaker or the airbag manufacturer for damages in these kinds of situations.

Why Clients Choose Matz Injury Law

The attorneys at Matz Injury Law have many years of experience helping accident victims recover damages. We listen to clients and work with them to get the most out of their injury claims. Recent successes include:

  • A $4.15 million settlement for a Washtenaw County motorcycle accident
  • A $3.45 million settlement for a Genesee County truck accident
  • A $1.3 million settlement for a car/truck collision in Monroe County

Keep more money in your pocket. Work with Matz Injury Law.


“My family is grateful for Steve Matz’s professional handling of our case.  Steve was very thorough, candid, responsive, and strategic in his approach throughout our legal proceedings.  If ever in a situation again like my family has experienced over the past year, we would immediately retain Matz Injury Law to represent our interests. Thank you Steve.” – John P.

“I reached out to Steve after my car accident and even without paying him he was there for me. Offered me advice and told me everything I needed to know about what my insurance company owed me. He cares about people and it shows!” – Kyanna W.

“Not only are Steve and his staff friendly, they are awesome; knowledgeable and fun to work with. I would recommend them to my friends and family. Thank you again Matz Injury Law.” – Julie K.

Related Resources

Recover Four Times the Compensation for Your Airbag Injury with Matz Injury Law

When it comes to injuries sustained in an auto accident, you will need not only time to heal but also compensation to cover expenses, lost wages, and more.

Recent surveys show that having legal representation leads to higher personal injury payouts today. Those who hired a personal injury lawyer to help with their case received, on average, $77,600, while those who were on their own walked away with only $17,600. In most of these cases, the lawyer charged a 33% contingency fee.

To improve upon this, Matz Injury Law only charges a 22% contingency fee, leaving you with more money to recover from your injuries. In other words, you are more likely to recover four times the compensation for your airbag injury with the help of our law firm.

Do not let the insurance company bully you into accepting a low settlement. Contact our office today by calling 866-226-6833, or use our online contact form to schedule a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an Airbag Break Your Nose Upon Deployment?

Yes, the force of the impact with an airbag can cause facial injuries, including a broken nose.

Can I File a Claim If My Airbags Did Not Deploy During an Accident?

An airbag should deploy when the car experiences a sufficiently large impact. If it does not deploy because of a defective airbag or a sensor, you may be able to file a claim for damages against the manufacturer.

Can Airbag Dust Cause Injuries?

Airbag deployment systems use sodium azide or sodium hydroxide to inflate the airbag in a few fractions of a second. As the airbag deploys, these chemicals are released as dust that can cause various injuries, including:

  • Chemical burns
  • Skin or eye irritation
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Asthma attacks and other breathing problems
How Hard Do You Have to Get Hit for Airbags to Deploy?

Essentially, airbags will deploy during a moderate to severe crash – which is usually the equivalent of hitting a solid, fixed barrier at 8-14 mph, according to the NHTSA. This deployment threshold occurs in both frontal and side airbags, depending on the type of crash.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.