Can a sue a car company if my drivers side airbags did not deploy in an accident? 28 Answers as of June 26, 2013

I recently rear-ended a vehicle on my way to work. I hit him hard enough to deploy the passenger side airbag, but not my steering wheels airbag. I hit his rear with the driver’s side of my vehicle. The vehicle is a 2004.5 Volkswagen Jetta GL 2.0L with a little over 100k on it. Background information on the Jetta. I am the second owner. I purchased the car privately from the original purchaser. Carfax showed no vehicle accidents of any kind prior to my purchase. This is the cars fourth accident since I've owned it. The airbags have never deployed in any other accidents. Nor have they ever been removed for any reason. The first accident was a scrape down the side which just required a repaint, which I brought to a local shop. The other two were front end collisions. The second was a front end collision. For this I brought her to the VW dealership due to the fact that there was physical damage to running parts, but no deployment of airbags. The third accident was caused by an accident in front of me that sprayed my car with debris. The vehicle was also brought to a VW dealership. That brings us to this accident, which happened exactly a month ago. This time I hit the car in front of me hard enough on the driver’s side to deploy the airbag on the driver’s side, but not mine. The vehicle has one unit that sends a signal to the ECU to deploy the airbags. The car is currently sitting in my garage. I have removed and thrown away the hood, but have kept everything else. The drives side fender, front bumper, bumper reinforcement, fiberglass radiator support (holds the bumper, headlights, and AC Compressor in place) have all been removed, but remain in my possession. Now that I've given you all that information, I'd like to know if this is worth pursuing VW over, or if I would just be wasting my time. I could have been seriously injured if I had not had my seatbelt on since the airbag was not deployed. What are your thoughts on this situation?

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David Hoines Law
David Hoines Law | David Hoines
not worth pursuing vw
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 8/1/2011
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
You have several problems. You say you weren't hurt, so what is the reason for a claim? Also you have perhaps a statute of limitations problem. Things are not warranted forever. What does your warranty book say. You have had multiple accidents and multi-ple owners. Who knows what might have happened to the various mechanisms involved.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 7/27/2011
Law Office of Jared Altman
Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
You situation is the classic "but I could have been killed. What do you mean my case is worth nothing?!" You weren't badly hurt. Be thankful that you don't have a worthwhile personal injury case. You really don't want one.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 7/27/2011
The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C.
The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C. | Josh Lamborn
Personal injury lawsuits are initiated in order to compensate someone for a loss or an injury that they suffer due to another person or company's negligence or other malfeasance. For you to recover you must at least have those two elements: negligence or bad behavior by another and a loss or injury on your part. From the facts you provided it sounds like you were wearing your seatbelt and therefore were not injured in the accident. Therefore, you suffered no loss. So despite what may have been negligence on someone's part you got lucky and were not injured. There is nothing to compensate you for. It is the old no blood, no foul rule.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 7/26/2011
The Lucky Law Firm, PLC
The Lucky Law Firm, PLC | Robert Morrison Lucky
We, unfortunately, do not handle many products liability only cases; however, as with any case, one's damages must be first assessed. Because the airbag did not deploy, what type of damages did you sustain? If you received little to no damages/injuries as a result of the failure of the airbag to deploy, then you will be pursuing punitive damages only for the most part. In Louisiana, you may only recover punitive damages in two situations of which neither apply here. If there are damages/injuries for which you can directly relate to the failure of the airbags to deploy, then you have to determine whether the airbags failed to deploy due to a defect or negligence on the manufacturer or distributor or dealership. This is often hard to prove on a used vehicle. However, what I recommend that you do is contact an attorney who handles products liability cases to see if he thinks this is something worth pursuing. I would definitely hold on to any and all evidence (i.e., the vehicle) until such time you have been advised accordingly.
Answer Applies to: Louisiana
Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Offices of Earl K. Straight
    Law Offices of Earl K. Straight | Earl K. Straight
    You stated in your question that you could have been seriously injured if you had not had your seatbelt on. Since you were not seriously injured, it would not be worth it to make this type of claim. You can only sue for your actual damages, not for what might have happened or what could have happened. Since you avoided serious injury your actual damages would not be high enough to justify this claim.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates | Barry Rabovsky
    We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation if you call my office at either of the numbers listed below. If my office accepts your case, there is no fee charged unless we are able to obtain a settlement for you.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C.
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C. | Steven A. Schwartz
    The quick answer in my opinion is that it would not be worth your time. In the law, you don't get compensated for what "could have happened." If you were able to avoid serious injury, then obviously that is a good thing. In order to succeed with a claim like this, you need to show negligence (the airbag was improperly installed) AND damages (your injuries). To show negligence, it is not enough to describe the facts as you have presented them. You very well may be correct, but to succeed, you must have an expert be able to comment on the airbag's faultiness. This will cost you thousands of dollars. VW will probably have their own expert to fight this, and you will be tied up in litigation for years. Given the fact that you seem to have little to no injury, it does not make sense as you would recover little even if you succeeded in court. In addition, it will cost you much more to pursue than it is worth.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
    You probably have a case, but the cost of pursuing it will likely outweigh any benefit. I actually focus my practice on auto defects, but I cannot generally take such a case unless there is catastrophic injury. Auto manufacturers fight these sorts of cases and it is typical that you have to spend in the six figures (sometimes high six figures) on experts and other expenses to pursue the case and prevail. If you had been seriously injured, these costs could be justified. But for obvious reasons it makes no sense to spend more money pursuing a case than you expect to recover if you win. The auto manufacturers know this, and they typically play hard ball for that reason. You may want to contact VW directly and suggest that you intend to hire a lawyer, and it's possible they will try to settle with you for a small amount if you sustained a minor injury (you do not indicate in your question whether you were hurt). Or if you really want to pursue it, I urge you to talk to a few lawyers in your area. If you want to pursue the case, it is very important that you maintain all the physical (vehicle) evidence in its current condition. You can also file a complaint with NHTSA. They have a website for consumer complaints where you can record what happened to you. Recording your incident may help prevent another accident, or at least show that it has happened before when someone else is seriously hurt by a non-deploying airbag in a similar vehicle. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 2/20/2012
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC | Eddie W. Wilson
    You did not mention that you were injured. You can't recover on a lawsuit based on "what if" I was injured. There have to be actual damages to pursue a personal injury claim.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    In order to pursue a products liability action of this nature, you would have to engage an expert witness. Typically, an expert witness for this kind of case would be a mechanical engineer with experience in vehicular dynamics, automobile design and accident reconstruction. You could expect to spend $25,0000 just to find out if there could be a claim for defective design. More importantly, the function of the courts is to allow litigants to be compensated for their damages. According to your post, you "could have been seriously injured" but you weren't. There is no grounds for bringing a suit for what "could have been".
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    I don't see much of a case here. Had you been seriously injured, you might have a case. You can only sue for actual damage, not damage that might have occurred. If the vehicle is still under warranty, you can bring a lawsuit to have the airbags fixed if they won't fix it.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm | Francis Hajek
    You may have a personal injury claim, but are there any damages? Failure to deploy airbag cases generally require an extensive workup, including the use of an expert in the field. If you do not have significant damages, the costs may outweigh any potential recovery.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    You were not seriously injured, so a case against them would not make sense. You need both liability and damages. The cost would far exceed any award, in my opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    The airbag malfunctioned. You have a claim against the dealer and the manufacturer. Because you were not seriously injured, it probably is not cost effective to pursue the claim. The value of your claim depends on the extent of your injuries.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    LT Pepper Law
    LT Pepper Law | Luke T. Pepper
    This would be a products liability case. We would retain an expert to determine whether the airbags failed and should have deployed in the accident described below. Of course we would evaluate the case from a statute of limitations perspective as well. Whether or not you had your seat belt would not factor into whether the car company is liable.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    You need to call a personal injury attorney who handles product defect cases.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Allen Murphy Law
    Allen Murphy Law | W. Riley Allen
    As a product liability trial lawyer, who specializes in these types of serious claims, I would not take this case under any circumstances. You were lucky and did not get seriously injured. Had you been seriously injured, you may have a claim to talk about, but you'd have to be seriously injured to justify doing so. I'd tell the dealership what has occurred and see if you can get the sensor repaired to prevent this from happening again, but with 4 accidents, they may not be inclined to help. Give them a push to see if they will help you.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
    First of all, I am glad you were not seriously injured. And that actually dictates my recommendation to you. Without any serious repercussions, a claim against the manufacturer or seller would be a huge expense to you with little, if anything, to show for it. However, I do recommend you take the car to a VW dealer and have them inspect the airbag and replace the system because it should have deployed.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Hand and Associates
    Hand and Associates | Ben Hand, Jr.
    How much were you injured?
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/26/2013
    Everett Walton, Attorney at Law
    Everett Walton, Attorney at Law | Everett Walton
    The main issue is whether or not you were injured. If you were not, then a defective airbag by itself would not justify a suit.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    D'Amore Law Group
    D'Amore Law Group | Emily Terriquez
    In order to pursue a claim against an auto manufacturer, you need to show that they did something wrong AND that you suffered an injury because of it. It sounds like you, luckily, were not injured in this particular collision.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Offices of Tom Patton
    Law Offices of Tom Patton | Thomas C. Patton
    When pursuing a claim you sue for damages. Damages in this case would be based upon the difference between the amount or degree of injuries you suffered as a result of VW's negligence. In other words, how much more seriously were you injured because the airbag failed to deploy? In your question, you state that you could have been seriously injured. Based upon that, I am guessing that you have no claim.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Shaw Law Firm
    Shaw Law Firm | Steven L. Shaw
    The most poignant thing you said in your description was "I could have been seriously injured..." Your case could have been a strong one if 1 - the car had been left intact and immediately preserved and stored (no parts removed), 2 - an expert could say that the failure was because of a design or manufacturing flaw, and 3 - you had been seriously injured. Without those three components, a defective product case could not be effectively made against VW.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/26/2011
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