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Forensic Engineering Experts: Airbags

By: Dr. Irving Ojalvo

Tel: (800) 358-9909
Fax: (888) 358-9901
Email: Technology Associates

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Technology AssociatesAirbags are credited with reducing numerous injuries and saving many lives during vehicle accidents. However, there have been incidents where they do not function as intended, and have even caused injuries such as explosive powder burns, detached eye retinas, child suffocation and impact deaths. In still other cases, airbags have not deployed when they should have, or even deployed unnecessarily, thus causing a car accident. In addition, many malfunctions do not occur in the airbag modules themselves, but rather in the electronic instruments and electromechanical devices that detect a collision and signal if, and when, an airbag should deploy.

Expertise

We have experience in many aspects of airbag safety including:

  • The protection afforded by airbags
  • Whether or not an airbag should have deployed based on vehicle damage
  • Vehicle components associated with proper airbag operation
  • Occupant simulation for accidents, both with and without an airbag

Questions Answered

Through scientific analysis, we can help you answer pertinent questions such as:

  • Should the airbag have deployed?
  • Was the car impact direction and area struck consistent with airbag deployment?
  • Would the occupant's injuries have been reduced if he were wearing his seatbelt when the airbag deployed?

Case Examples

Airbag did not deploy in a head on crash:

A car's driver was seriously injured when he struck another vehicle. The automobile manufacturer claimed that the vehicle's onboard computer indicated "no fault codes" associated with the airbag system and, therefore, the impact was not sufficient to require its deployment. However, the driver received a handsome settlement after we showed that, based on government airbag standards, the impact crush severity and direction were sufficient to expect airbag deployment.

Car strikes guardrail and rolls down hill:

A driver lost control of his car and struck a guardrail, which did not stop the vehicle. It then rolled down an embankment and landed upside down in a creek, nearly drowning the driver. By analyzing the car's damage, we discouraged the driver's lawyer from pursuing a futile claim of airbag malfunction against the car-maker, but encouraged a successful suit against the guardrail manufacturer, since it should have contained and deflected the car from running off the roadway.


Dr. Irving Ojalvo was, at the time of this article's publication, the Chairman of Technology Associates (www.technology-assoc.com), a forensic engineering firm with offices in New York City and Connecticut. The firm's technical personnel, all of whom have advanced degrees, perform accident reconstruction involving issues of biomechanics, mechanical, traffic, and human factors engineering.

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