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Tampa Auto Accident Lawyers > Blog > Car accident > How Serious Does a Crash Have to be for My Airbags to Deploy?

How Serious Does a Crash Have to be for My Airbags to Deploy?


Airbags have been required safety features in all new vehicles since the 1990’s and are thought to have saved thousands of lives since then. For instance, front airbags reduce driver fatality by almost 30 percent, while side airbags lower a driver’s risk of death by 37 percent. Many people, however, remain confused about how airbags work and how serious a crash needs to be before they actually deploy. Read on to learn more about what airbag deployment could mean for your own case.

How Airbags Work 

All airbag systems have sensors that can detect various vehicle movements and have programmed limits put in place by manufacturers. When a system detects movement that exceeds these limits, an electrical impulse is sent to an ignitor, which then causes a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction causes the airbag to inflate instantaneously (usually within 1/20th of a second).

Airbag Sensor Limits Vary 

Although most airbag manufacturers set their systems to detect similar limits, the exact movements that will trigger deployment can vary. As a general rule, however, most front airbag systems are set to deploy when the sensor detects a force that is equivalent to a collision with a stationary object at a speed of 16 miles per hour, although sensors can activate at lower speeds if an occupant isn’t wearing a seat belt. The speed that will trigger the deployment of a side airbag depends on whether the system detects a small impact zone or a wide impact zone. The former indicates a collision with a stationary object, like a light post, while the latter suggests a collision with another vehicle, such as a t-bone crash.

Airbag Deployment Doesn’t Necessarily Indicate Crash Severity 

The variation in an airbag system’s sensor limits means that a collision doesn’t have to reach the level of catastrophic for an airbag to deploy. Similarly, deployment doesn’t necessarily mean that the occupants have suffered serious injuries. Essentially, airbag deployment doesn’t always indicate the severity of a crash. All deployment means is that the system’s preprogrammed limitations were exceeded. As a result, accident victims cannot point to deployment of their airbags as evidence of the severity of their crash when filing a legal claim. In order to establish how serious a crash was, the victim will need to present evidence of injuries and the degree of damage to their vehicle.

Contact Our Tampa Car Accident Lawyers Today 

If you were injured in a crash, whether or not your airbag system deployed won’t necessarily correspond with the severity of a crash. For instance, a defect in the system could result in an airbag failing to deploy at all, despite the crash qualifying as catastrophic. To speak with an experienced Tampa auto accident attorney about the kinds of evidence you will need to establish liability and damages in a potential legal case, call the offices of Anderson & Anderson today. You can reach a member of our dedicated support staff to set up an appointment by calling 813-251-0072 or by sending us an online message.



nhtsa.gov/equipment/air-bags#:~:text=An igniter in the inflator,1/20th of a second

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