Product Liability

WV man sues General Motors for airbag and seatbelt failure

A resident of Chapmanville, West Virginia has filed a lawsuit against General Motors for injuries he received after his Pontiac crashed but the airbags failed to deploy. The plaintiff also claims that his seat belt failed to restrain him, causing further injuries.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was driving his father’s 2006 Pontiac G6 on April 23, 2011, when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed head-on into a metal drainage pipe and other obstacles. According to the West Virginia Record, the force of the collision “exceeded the airbag system’s predetermined deployment threshold,” yet, the lawsuit alleges, the front-side driver airbag malfunctioned because it didn’t deploy as it was designed to do. The plaintiff alleges in his lawsuit that the sensor mechanism that triggers airbag inflation on impact failed.

Additionally, the seat belts in the Pontiac G6 failed to work properly, the lawsuit charges, thereby causing the plaintiff to strike his head against the steering wheel and windshield and causing injuries unspecified by the West Virginia Record. The lawsuit asserts that these mechanical failures amount to a failure on General Motor’s part to test the vehicle properly and adequately, which would have ensured the car’s systems performed as intended in the event of a front-end impact.

The plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The complaint was filed October 28 in Kanawha Circuit Court in Charleston, West Virginia.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which strictly regulates the performance standards of vehicular airbags and seat belts, frontal crashes are the most significant cause of motor vehicle fatalities. More than two-thirds of the people killed in frontal crashes are unbelted.

“The frontal crash of a vehicle involves two collisions,” NHTSA explains its crash protections rules. “The first collision occurs when the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree. The second collision is the human collision with the vehicle interior.”

When a car collides with an object, a front seat occupant who is not restrained by a seat belt becomes a projectile and continues to move forward, often at the vehicle’s pre-crash speed. If the unbelted passenger is not protected by an air bag, his or her head or chest typically strikes the steering wheel, dashboard, roof pillars, or windshield. Even belted occupants are likely to strike the vehicle interior when they are not protected by an airbag, receiving traumatic injuries to the head, neck, and chest in a serious crash.

The West Virginia Record
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration