Automobile Expert Witness Discusses Airbag Deployment Malfunction

    Automotive Expert WitnessThis case involves a woman who was driving her rental car and hit a deviation in the road which caused her airbags to deploy. The plaintiff, a twenty-three-year-old female, was driving from her house to a nearby shopping mall. The road that lead to the shopping mall entrance was under construction and there was a large deviation where the old asphalt on the road ended and where the new asphalt was going to be laid. The woman decelerated to twenty miles per hour at the beginning of the construction area and then proceeded to accelerate to twenty-five miles per hour (which was in accordance with the twenty-five miles per hour speed limit). There was another deviation at the end of the construction zone which she did not slow down for because she was driving at twenty five miles per hour. When she hit this deviation, the front airbags of her car deployed. As a result of the deployed airbags, the woman swerved her car into the cement divider and she sustained a concussion and multiple lacerations on her face and neck.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • What can cause an airbag(s) to deploy at the wrong time?

    Expert Witness Response

    Some vehicles have a specific defect that makes the airbags more likely to deploy at the incorrect time. By analyzing the exact automobile, in addition to the mileage, usage, climate, the measurements of the ‘bump’ where the airbag deployed, and other external factors, I can discover the possibility of a defect which would cause deployment. Generally speaking, an airbag may deploy for a number of reasons. Every car has a MEMS accelerometer which detects if the car rapidly decelerates. If the car decelerates too fast, the airbag will deploy. In addition, airbags are set to deploy during a vehicle fire. There is a sensor in the car that triggers the airbag to deploy when the car reaches between 300 and 400 degrees. A full review of the events and an examination of the car would reveal why the airbag deployed, and if it was caused by a defect. I have over twenty-one years in the automotive industry, and extensive experience measuring mechanical issues with automobile safety features (including airbag deployment).

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