Counterfeit Air Bags Can Turn Minor Crash into Serious Accident or Fatality

Late last year the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a safety advisory to alert the public to a potentially dangerous situation involving counterfeit air bags. Shown to consistently malfunction under testing, these criminally distributed air bags have the potential to jeopardize the health and lives of drivers involved in even minor accidents due to failure to deploy or explode and propel shrapnel at those they are meant to protect. Serious accidents are even more dangerous when counterfeit air bags are involved.

According to the NHTSA, the counterfeit air bags look identical to the certified, original equipment air bags from the car’s manufacturer right down to having the insignia and branding of major automakers. The counterfeits are apparently distributed to non-dealer mechanics, possibly portrayed as discounted certified OEM parts, and to car owners via e-Bay and other non-certified sources.

Are Counterfeit Air Bags Really a Threat?

The steeply discounted price of the counterfeits makes them attractive to mechanics and car owners who want to save money or make higher profits from the repair or resale of the vehicle. However, testing by NHTSA revealed that the counterfeits consistently malfunction with problems ranging from failure to deploy to expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment. The NHTSA posted a video of two malfunctioning air bags on their website that clearly shows one air bag exploding and ejecting palm-sized pieces of metal at the crash-test dummy behind the wheel.

The tests showed in the video involved stationary vehicles so the crash-test dummies were stationary during the test. However, a real-life accident would likely cause a driver or passenger to lurch forward so their face would be much closer to an exploding air bag, which could prove fatal or, at the very least, permanently disfigure the victim’s face. If an air bag fails to deploy in an accident, the unprotected driver or passenger could be subject to striking their head on the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield or even be ejected from the vehicle.

Determining Whether Your Air Bag Is Counterfeit And What To Do About It If It Is

According to the NFTSA, the counterfeit air bag issue affects less than 0.1 percent of automobile models in the U.S.  A full list of the known models for which counterfeit air bags are available can be found on the NFTSA website. Additionally, the only car owners at risk are those who’ve had their air bags replaced by someone other than a dealer-certified mechanic in the last three years or who don’t know the full repair history of their vehicle. Car owners who’ve purchased their own replacement air bag from a source other than a new-car dealer, especially if they paid less than $400 for the replacement, are also at risk for having a dangerous counterfeit air bag.

If your car or truck falls into a high risk category, or if you know your air bag is counterfeit, you should contact the call center for the manufacturer of your automobile. The NHSTA has provided a full list of call centers on their Safer Car website. The call center will help you schedule a vehicle inspection and replacement of the air bag at the manufacturer’s expense if necessary.

What to Do if Injured by a Counterfeit or Malfunctioning Air Bag in a Serious Accident

A malfunctioning air bag can injure drivers and front-seat passengers by expulsion of metal parts and shrapnel, or allow unnecessary injuries or death to occur by failing to deploy properly and protect the car’s occupant. When injuries or death occur in this manner, the individuals who purchased, installed and/or manufactured the air bag may be liable for those injuries or wrongful death.

Regardless of whether the malfunctioning air bag was a counterfeit, a certified OEM replacement or the original air bag installed by the manufacturer, manufacturers and mechanics (and the distributors who supply the parts they install) can be liable when they knowingly use substandard parts or are neglectful in ensuring that quality, reliable parts are used.

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed because of a malfunctioning air bag, you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer. A Metro Detroit personal injury lawyer can review your case and help you decide whether a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit is appropriate. You could be entitled to money to compensate your suffering and other losses.

Additionally, medical costs and other economic losses from injuries incurred due to deployment of an air bag should be covered by your Michigan no-fault insurance company. However, many insurance companies are reluctant to pay the full costs of such injuries. A Detroit personal injury lawyer may be able to help you obtain the full benefits and recovery you’re entitled to for your injuries.

In Michigan, the personal injury firm of Sachs Waldman, P.C., can assist you in pursuing mechanics, manufacturers, distributors, insurance companies and other liable parties for the benefits and compensation you’re entitled to. Call our Detroit personal injury attorneys’ office at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.

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