Airbags, when properly designed and manufactured, offer remarkable protection in vehicle collisions. More importantly, unlike seatbelts, these airbags work without the need for the driver to do anything at all. Many vehicles on the road today have both front and side airbags. When the airbags function properly, safety for passengers is enhanced in the event of a collision. As manufacturers continue to design their vehicles with these devices, the number of catastrophic injuries should continue to decline. I will focus on side curtain airbags in this issue and discuss a most serious safety issue.
Side curtain airbags deploy in side-impact collisions to protect the head and neck in the event of a side impact collision. Side curtain airbags can also prevent people from being ejected from a vehicle during a rollover. When purchasing a vehicle, consumers should pay particular attention to whether these safety devices are “standard” or “optional.” Clearly, it’s better to have as many safety devices as possible.
Lawyers in our firm represent a brother and a sister who lost their mother who was involved in a side-impact collision. Their mother sustained a head/neck injury, causing her to be paralyzed from the neck down. When life support was removed, her body was unable to sustain life. We are convinced that a side curtain airbag would have prevented the injuries she sustained. This case is tragic because the vehicle their mother was driving, a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, was advertised as having side curtain airbags. The side curtain airbag did not deploy in this incident because it had been removed by General Motors, the vehicle manufacturer, at the behest of a rental car company that purchased the vehicle to rent to its customers.
As we have learned in litigation, these fleet vehicles are commonly sold to the public by car rental companies. These cars are sold to consumers without any notice or warning that a critical safety device has been removed from the vehicle. As you can likely guess, the airbags are removed to save the rental car companies money when they purchase vehicles for their rental fleet. The savings amount to less than $200 per vehicle. This is yet another blatant example of corporations putting profits over safety, resulting in unnecessary suffering by innocent consumers.
Consumers purchasing “pre-owned” vehicles should ascertain whether the vehicle was ever part of a rental fleet. They should have the vehicle inspected to verify that advertised safety devices have not been removed from the vehicle. This is truly a life or death inquiry. Lawyers in our firm are in the final stages of investigating the claim mentioned above. Once we file suit and obtain more information regarding this practice, we will update this article. Kendall Dunson, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Product Liability Section, is the lead lawyer representing the client in this case. If you need more information on the side air bag problem, contact Kendall at 800-898-2304 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com.
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