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Common Airbag Injuries



Dr. Deryk Harting is a member of one of the highest rated auto injury medical facilities in the Tampa Bay area, Chambers Medical Group. With extensive experience in care for patients injured in car accidents, he has firsthand knowledge of airbag injuries. Dr. Harting explains the many common airbag injuries associated with car collisions and airbag deployment.


The history of airbags traces back to the 1950s, with Walter Linderer and John Hetrick filing patents for compressed air-based safety systems for automotive vehicles. However, research in the 1960s revealed the limitations of using compressed air to inflate airbags quickly enough. In 1968, Allen Breed’s electromechanical airbag system marked a significant advancement. Meanwhile, Japanese engineer Yasuzaburou Kobori developed an explosive-triggered airbag “safety net” in the 1960s. Commercial introduction of airbags began in 1971 when Ford built an experimental fleet and General Motors installed airbags in 1973 Chevrolet Impalas for government use. The 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado became the first car with a passenger airbag available to the public. However, due to low consumer interest, General Motors discontinued airbag options for its 1977 models. Ford and GM initially resisted airbag requirements but eventually reintroduced them in the 1980s. Chrysler made driver-side airbags standard in their 1988–1989 models and by the early 1990s airbags had become prevalent in American cars. By 1998 airbags were mandatory in all new cars.


While airbags are designed to reduce the risk of injury in a car accident, their deployment can still cause injuries in some cases. The force generated by airbag deployment is significant and is intended to protect occupants from colliding with the vehicle’s interior. However, some injuries may occur due to airbag deployment:


  • Abrasion or Burns: The rapid deployment of an airbag can cause abrasions or burns, particularly on the face, arms, and hands. Thermal burns result from the hot air of an airbag’s rapid inflation. Ballistic burns are caused by physical pressure or scratches from small particles within the airbag or against the occupant. This is often referred to as “airbag rash.”
  • Fractures: The force of the airbag deploying can cause fractures to the hands, arms, shoulders, chest, ribs, and fingers as occupants may have their hands on the steering wheel or out in front of them.
  • Eye Injuries: The impact of the airbag against the face can cause eye injuries like corneal abrasions, eyelid lacerations, retinal detachment, iris tears, chemical burn, or more severe injuries.
  • Inhalation Injuries: The powder or chemicals used in airbags, mainly sodium hydroxide and sodium azide, can cause respiratory irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals. In particular, those suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or emphysema may have breathing difficulties.
  • Facial Injuries: The forceful deployment of the airbag can lead to facial injuries such as contusions, lacerations, or fractures.
  • Neck and Back Injuries: The sudden inflation of the airbag can cause rapid head and neck movement causing injury to spinal ligaments, muscles, nerves, discs, and bones.
  • Other bodily injuries including internal bleeding, punctured/collapsed lungs, traumatic brain injury, ear trauma, and fetal injury/complications in pregnant women.


It is important to note that while airbags can cause injuries, the overall safety benefits they provide generally outweigh the risks during severe collisions. Manufacturers continuously work to improve airbag designs and deployment mechanisms to minimize the potential for injuries. To reduce the risk of airbag-related injuries, it is crucial for drivers and occupants to use seat belts properly and maintain a safe seating distance from the airbag. Additionally, children should be appropriately seated in the back seat and secured in age-appropriate car seats or booster seats.


— This article is written by Deryk Harting, DC, one of the members of Chambers Medical Group’s team of car accident chiropractors who offer a variety of treatments and therapies ranging from diagnostic testing to various soft tissue therapies for car accidents and injuries in Florida.

















































































Have you been in a car accident? If you or somebody you know has been in a car accident, be sure that you seek medical attention from a car accident doctor or car accident chiropractor to treat your injuries. Visit Chambers Medical Group  to receive world-class medical treatment for your injuries.

Chambers Medical Group has car accident medical clinics in the following locations:

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