Defective Airbag Fails to Deploy During Crash


Airbag Expert WitnessThis case involves a man who was involved in a high-speed automotive accident in North Carolina. At the time of the incident, the man was driving a late-model american sports car on the highway near his home. The man rear-ended a disabled tractor trailer while traveling at a high rate of speed. During the crash, the car’s airbags failed to deploy, causing the man’s face to strike the surface of the car’s steering wheel. As a result, the man suffered a number of facial injuries, including broken bones and the loss of multiple teeth. It was later discovered that the airbags in his car had been subject to a recall over defective inflator units.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can you determine if the airbag malfunctioned?

Expert Witness Response E-144069

The car in question here is not equipped with an Event Data Recorder (EDR) within it’s Airbag Control Module; however, there is likely an EDR component retained within it’s Powertrain Control Module accessible only by the manufacturer. Engineers from the manufacturer could be compelled to extract this information. An inspection of the vehicle would be critical to document the location and severity of the damage in order to understand if the impact would have activated the airbag system. The criterium for deployment of airbag systems is considered intellectual property specific to each vehicle manufacturer and is not specifically known, so an analysis of this crash scenario compared to previous comparable testing and white papers could be used to determine proper or improper retention of the airbag system. Current NHTSA documents do not outline recalls associated with a failure to deploy airbags but rather the airbag inflator rupturing upon deployment. Because a failure to deploy is not currently acknowledged as an issue the analysis would be critical to understand if it should have deployed during this scenario.

Expert Witness Response E-147003

It certainly appears it should have deployed the frontal impact airbag during this crash. This vehicle has a single EFS (Electronic Front Sensor) on the upper radiator support near the hood latch. This area appears to be engaged, but we have to look at PDOF (Principle Direction of Force) and localized deformation at the sensor location to better understand what happened. A CDR download from this vehicle should be feasible. We have to verify if there were any faults present at the time of the collision that might have rendered the airbag system inert.

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