What Should I Do if My Airbags Failed to Deploy in a Car Accident?

What Should I Do if My Airbags Failed to Deploy in a Car Accident?

Being involved in a car accident is a jarring experience. The noise, force of impact, and confusion can leave your head spinning. The failure of airbags to deploy adds even more uncertainty and distress to a traumatic situation.

If your airbags didn’t inflate correctly during a collision, remember to stay calm. Assess whether you require medical care. Explore your legal recourse options. This guide will walk through the key steps to take after an airbag failure.

Assessing Injuries and Seeking Medical Care

After a car accident, the top priority is getting prompt medical attention. Ensure you and your passengers receive care for any injuries sustained.

  • Call 911 immediately if anyone needs emergency care.
  • If injuries seem minor, it’s still wise to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Some issues like whiplash may not be obvious right away.
  • Thoroughly describe your experience and any symptoms you notice to medical staff, including the fact that the airbags did not deploy.
  • Get copies of all medical reports and images to document crash-related injuries.

Don’t delay seeking treatment, even if you don’t have health insurance. Many auto accident injuries are covered by car insurance or other options.

Documenting the Scene and Damage

After addressing urgent medical needs, start collecting evidence and documenting the accident scene, with the guidance of car accident lawyers if necessary.

  • Take photos of damage to all vehicles, injuries/scrapes to occupants, and the accident location from different angles.
  • Get contact details and insurance information for the other driver(s) involved.
  • Note the exact time, weather conditions, road conditions, and any unusual circumstances (e.g. obstructed views).
  • Take down the names and contact information of any witnesses. Get their full accounts in writing immediately while the details are still fresh.
  • Keep records of all related expenses like medical bills, repair estimates, and lost wages due to injuries.

Comprehensive documentation is crucial. It helps determine what occurred and if airbag defects or other factors contributed to injuries and vehicle damage.

Reporting Airbag Failure

Airbag systems are complex and have sensors to detect crash forces and deploy bags at the right instant. Occasionally, something can go wrong causing them not to inflate properly. Multiple reporting steps are recommended if this occurs:

  • File a vehicle complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding the airbag failure. Filing the complaint creates an official record. It can also prompt investigations if multiple similar reports are received.
  • Notify your vehicle manufacturer about the airbag issue. They may issue a recall if a widespread defect is detected.
  • Inform your insurance company about the airbag failure along with your claim details from the accident. Most policies have a process for reporting airbag issues.

Manufacturers and regulators depend on consumer complaints. They help identify recurring airbag deployment problems that signal a safety defect or design issue. Filing official reports is important to potentially prevent future accidents.

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Understanding Airbag Investigation and Defects

Several factors may prevent airbags from deploying as intended in certain accidents:

Airbag defects: 

Like other vehicle components, airbags can have latent defects impacting their reliability. Common issues include:

  • Faulty airbag wiring, sensors, or inflators.
  • Airbag software errors preventing deployment signals.
  • Use of defective Takata airbag inflators prone to explosions.

Vehicle factors: 

Features and conditions of the vehicle itself can influence airbag performance:

  • Airbags may not deploy in rear or side collisions based on the force, angle, and nature of the impact.
  • Advanced airbag systems can selectively suppress deployment. They do this when they detect specific passenger seat occupants, such as small adults or children.
  • Severe vehicle damage or loss of battery power can disrupt airbag functioning.

Driver and passenger factors: 

The positioning and characteristics of occupants also affect airbag appropriateness:

  • Airbags may not be effective when occupants aren’t wearing seatbelts properly. They might also provide less protection if occupants are seated unusually far from the airbags.
  • Deployment could be risky and do more harm than good. This is especially true when occupants are small, frail, or not in the ideal seating position.

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Investigators will assess various technical and situational factors. They do this to determine whether airbag deployment failures point to a genuine product defect. Or if it’s a case of circumstances not meeting deployment criteria.

The following chart displays the distribution of various causes of airbag non-deployment based on investigation findings:

Data source: NHTSA Airbag Investigation Data

Preventing Airbag Issues through Proper Maintenance

Numerous airbag deployment failures result from product defects or collision circumstances. Some issues can be prevented through regular vehicle maintenance:

  • Get airbags and related systems inspected according to manufacturer service schedules. Airbag wiring or sensors can degrade over time and should be checked.
  • Make sure the airbag control module software and diagnostics are always up to date. Dealerships can reflash modules if needed.
  • Use only manufacturer-approved replacement parts when service is needed. Unapproved third-party airbag components are unreliable.
  • Keep the interior cabin free of objects that could become projectiles when airbags inflate.
  • Repair any accident damage, dents, or frame damage that could alter airbag sensor functioning. Even minor distortions can affect deployment.

Proper maintenance increases the reliability of airbag systems when they are needed.

If investigators confirm an airbag defect caused more injuries, you may have legal grounds for action. The legal action could be against the responsible parties:

  • Vehicle manufacturer:

For producing a defective or negligently designed airbag system.

  • Specific airbag maker:

For defects in components like inflators or software controlling deployment.

  • Vehicle dealership:

If they fail to address and resolve any airbag problems previously detected.

Consult an auto accident attorney. They assess your case and guide you legally. They find liability and seek maximum damages. Manufacturers and dealerships settle airbag defect suits to avoid bad press. 

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Collect strong evidence and medical records to strengthen the case connecting airbag issues to additional injuries.

Getting Airbags Fixed after a Failure

Before driving a vehicle again after airbags fail to deploy properly:

  • Have a certified mechanic thoroughly diagnose the airbag system components and wiring. Simple faults like damaged wiring can sometimes be repaired.
  • For more complex software or sensor issues, airbag control modules may need replacement. The airbag control modules may also need recalibration. Only manufacturer-approved parts should be installed.
  • If Takata inflators are suspected, all impacted airbags in the vehicle should be replaced, not just the ones in the accident.
  • The entire airbag system should have diagnostics run after repairs are complete. The diagnostics should confirm proper functioning.
  • Keep pursuing the manufacturer to cover costs if the investigation shows the airbag failure was due to a defect.

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Getting airbags fixed by qualified technicians is crucial. It is crucial to ensure trustworthy performance in future accidents. Avoid taking risks with temporary solutions or completely disabling airbags.


What are the main reasons airbags don’t inflate in an accident?

Airbags may not deploy due to insufficient accident forces and vehicle dynamics. This failure can occur when conditions don’t meet deployment thresholds. Airbag system defects or software errors can lead to improper inflation. Faulty wiring or problematic Takata inflators may also cause inflation issues.

Should I continue to wear a seatbelt if my car is equipped with airbags?

Yes, always wear a seatbelt even with airbags. Seatbelts help keep you in the correct seating position to safely interact with inflating airbags. Airbags work together with belts to maximize protection.

Can defective airbags still deploy unexpectedly even if an accident wasn’t severe?

Yes, very forceful and explosive deployments not triggered by a crash are rare but can occur with defective airbag inflators. A sign of this type of defect is if an airbag deploys randomly without an accident.

What if my airbag didn’t deploy because the accident wasn’t severe enough?

Airbags are intended to supplement seatbelts in moderate to severe frontal or side impacts. In minor accidents, airbags may not deploy by design. The vehicle, occupants, direction of impact, and speed determine if deployment thresholds are actually met.

Can I drive my car if the airbags do not deploy properly after an accident?

Do not drive a vehicle that had airbags fail to deploy until a certified mechanic inspects the entire airbag system. Driving with potential airbag defects could be very hazardous. The deployment issues should be fully diagnosed and resolved before the car is back on the road.


Improper airbag inflation increases the risk of occupant injuries. If you face this distressing situation, aim to stay calm. Then, follow the appropriate legal, medical, and automotive procedures.

Report the incident to the authorities and gather evidence. Seek a medical evaluation for any injuries. Consider your options if you suspect manufacturer negligence in the airbag deployment failure.

With the appropriate response, even an accident involving airbag defects can be safely managed.

Dylan Miller

I am a Chicago native and regular contributor to "Locar Deals". I have a master's degree in English, am an automobile content creation specialist, and have written professionally for a variety of automotive companies over the past few years. I write on a variety of vehicles, from high-end luxury cars to ten-year-old gas guzzlers and everything in between. And I love sharing valuable car buying tips with consumers from all walks of life.

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