Florida residents and out-of-state drivers alike must adhere to road rules to avoid causing crashes. However, car accidents don’t occur only because of drivers’ negligence to observe traffic rules. Defective airbags can also lead to car accident injuries. The Clay County Personal Injury Attorney is experienced in advocating for car accident victims to ensure they receive the monetary compensation and psychological support needed to facilitate a full recovery. Get in touch with us to help you seek compensation from the manufacturer of the defective airbags.

Statistics on Car Accidents in Florida

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that car crashes are responsible for 30,000 fatalities each year and Florida accounts for about 2,400 of these traffic-related deaths. Florida ranks third in the list of states with the most accident fatalities which is alarming by any standard. As per the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department, roughly 200,000 car accidents are recorded each year which translates to about 650 crashes per day. In 2017, there were 194,836 crashes out of which 81,641 caused personal injuries, and 1,467 were recorded as fatal collisions, Florida's Integrated Report Exchange System reported.

Types of Car Accidents on Florida's Roads

If you reside in Florida or find yourself driving on the highways here, you must take caution to ensure safe driving, but despite extra caution on your part, you can still encounter accidents. Here are the most common kinds of road accidents depending on their particular circumstances:

  • Rollover accidents
  • Rear end collisions
  • Head on collision
  • Side impact collision
  • Multi-car pileups
  • Intersection accidents
  • Left turn accidents
  • Single car accidents
  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Tire blowouts
  • Distracted driving and texting accidents
  • Uninsured and underinsured car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Fatigued driving
  • Hazardous road conditions
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Uber and Lyft accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents

The Role of Airbags in Car Accidents

There are many scenarios that can trigger crashes either by design or by other factors beyond your control. Should this be your fate, you can only hope that the vehicle's safety features will deploy and keep you safe or at the very least mitigate the impact. The NHTSA acknowledges the vital role of airbags in saving lives when collisions occur; frontal airbags have saved 44,869 lives between 1987 and 2015. As of 2016 statistics, frontal airbags saved 2,756 lives of occupants 13 years and above.

Frontal and side-impact airbags offer supplemental protection and are designed to deploy in the spectrum of minor to moderate and severe crashes. They lessen the risk of your head or upper body striking the interior of your car when a collision occurs, so you remain secure inside the vehicle. In extreme accidents where passengers are ejected fully from an automobile, their likelihood of surviving is almost zero. In 2017, NHTSA data shows that 51% of crashes involving the death of male passengers were unrestrained.

Airbags are certainly not interchangeable with seat belts; this safety feature works best when coupled with seat belts and you must be appropriately seated with children younger than 13 in the back seat. Even when operating a vehicle sans airbags, you are still safer buckled up than when driving an automobile with airbags and not buckled up.

Must I Buckle Up for Short Distances?

You must always buckle up even when making regular trips as these can be misleadingly dangerous. NHTSA data provides that the majority of fatal crashes occur within 25 miles from home and at driving speeds of below 40 miles per hour. The same rules apply when driving pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans as seat belts can lessen the risk of fatal injuries to the front passenger and driver by 60 percent. NHTSA emphasizes that wearing seat belts is the best insurance to negate injuries and fatalities in the event of collisions.

Types of Air Bag Defects

Adhering to NHTSA guidelines on airbags and seat belts is crucial, but defective airbags undermine your efforts to stay safe in the event of crashes. Several types of airbag defects can hurt you and your traveling companions as listed below:

  • Oversized airbags – these airbags are too big, so they deploy much farther than required for safety purposes.
  • Overly forceful airbags – this kind of airbags have excess fuel, and this makes them inflate at high speeds (quicker than 200 mph) thus deploying too far into the occupant compartment.
  • Untethered airbags – airbags are designed with tethers inside them to limit movement during inflation. Untethered airbags are unable to govern their reach once deployed so they could hurt you.
  • Low-deployment thresholds – typically, airbags are needed during high-speed crashes to cushion from the tremendous force. Low deployment threshold makes airbags to deploy in low-speed collisions thereby causing more injuries than if they had failed to implement.
  • Other systemic failures – air bags could malfunction due to defective electrical systems or sensors which make them inflate when you turn on the ignition or upon hitting a bump or pothole. If airbags malfunction, they can inflict grave injuries and in extreme scenarios cause death.

NHTSA examines reported cases of defective airbags working with concerned manufactures to replace these faulty products, so they protect lives as needed. Automotive giants like Nissan, Chrysler, Subaru, etc. including luxury brands like Jaguar and Mercedes Benz have been tasked with recalling defective airbags and other automobile products. Earlier this year, Toyota recalled 1.7 million vehicles globally amid growing concerns over their potentially defective Takata airbag inflators. By the time of this announcement, about 23 deaths (15 within the US) had been connected to the rupturing of faulty Takata airbag inflators.

Examples of Injuries Related to Defective Airbags

Being in any car accident is scary enough, and unfortunately, not many people escape unscathed. Whether driving a heavy truck in the line of duty or driving a minivan going for a grocery run, a crash can induce significant bodily harm when the airbags are defective. You could potentially suffer injuries that range from minor to severe, and in extreme cases, fatalities occur. Examples of injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Concussions
  • Head and back injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation of limbs
  • Blindness
  • Wrongful death

What Causes Car Accidents in Florida other than Defective Airbags?

Seeing the gravity of traffic-related deaths in Florida, it is expedient that you adhere to all driving regulations to ensure that you reach your destination safely. Despite efforts by law enforcement to apprehend negligent drivers and implement safety measures to curb accidents on Florida's roads, car crashes continue to happen. Moreover, they are caused by multiple factors; thus, complicating efforts to curb these accidents. Here are the main reasons why traffic accidents occur:

  • Drunk Driving

Driving under the influence is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents in Florida and throughout the country. Research shows that alcohol or narcotics impairment – including marijuana which was legalized in March this year – causes drowsiness, a delay in judgment, imprecise vision, and impedes reaction time. For these reasons, the law categorically warns drivers from getting behind the wheel when intoxicated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that car crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers claim 29 lives per day which is one death every 50 minutes, across the US. Costs of dealing with this scourge are an upwards of $44 billion every year, money which could be funneled to other areas. Apart from hurting adults, impaired driving also puts children in harm's way. In 2016, statistics indicated that out of 1,233 traffic deaths of children between 0 to 14 years, an estimated 17% were caused by a driver impaired by alcohol or other substances. The same year, over 1 million drivers were apprehended for DUIs which represents 1% of the 111 million self-reported incidences of alcohol-impaired driving each year across the US. 

Florida is known for enacting some of the most stringent DUI laws in the US. If you are apprehended for driving under the influence, you could lose your driver's license, serve a jail sentence of up to six months, and pay monetary fines of up to $2,000. The charges go higher for every subsequent DUI offense. 

  • Speedy driving

By all accounts, speeding is a significant factor in road crashes but despite people generally acknowledging that driving above speed limits is dangerous and disapproving of speeding on residential streets. There is a notable disconnect between what people believe to be right or wrong and what they practice once behind the wheel. There are several factors associated with speedy driving such as male drivers are more prone to over speeding than females and 50% of drivers in the age bracket 16 – 20 are more likely to speed. Consuming alcohol or other substances before driving is known to increase the chances of speeding.

  • Unfocused driving

Taking your eyes off the road even for a fleeting moment can yield adverse outcomes. You are likely to miss that pedestrian or not notice a change in the flow of traffic, or even that unruly driver who cuts you off without warning. There are many reasons why people are distracted when driving such as using mobile phones (texting, web surfing, talking), fiddling with music controls, applying makeup, handling children or pets, talking to passengers, zoning out perhaps making a mental grocery list, etc. Florida's law deems any distracted as negligent, and they can be held liable for inflicting bodily harm or fatalities. The National Safety Council noted that 1.6 million crashes and roughly 330,000 injuries each year are a direct result of using cell phones when driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017 and texting is the most alarming interruption. NHTSA research shows that sending or reading a text distracts a driver for approximately 5 seconds and at 55 miles per hour, that duration is the equivalent of driving along a football field blindfolded. The task of driving demands your full attention and even the slightest moment of taking your eyes off the road can lead to catastrophic outcomes. Teens are the most susceptible to distractions when driving due to their fondness of cell phones including taking selfies and the emerging phenomenon of vlogging.

  • Running a red light

Florida uses automated cameras at intersections to seize red light violators unless they did so under particular circumstances, for instance, running the light to yield to an emergency vehicle like an ambulance. In typical scenarios, drivers are mandated to stop just before reaching the closest marked limit line, entering an intersection, or passing through a crosswalk. Motorists in Florida are allowed to make a right turn after stopping at a red light providing they follow the right-of-way rules. The left-on-red law permits drivers to make a left turn after stopping at a red light if they are coming from a one-way street and joining another one-way street.

Some states don't allow motorists to enter an intersection when the yellow light is flashing, but in Florida, drivers can enter an intersection while the flashing is still yellow. Recklessly running a red light can lead to collisions and in extreme cases, the driver may face vehicular homicide charges.

  • Falling asleep when driving

Sleep deprivation is a growing concern for many Americans as people juggle multiple responsibilities like school, work, family life, and so on. Drowsy driving is a dangerous combination of driving while sleepy or fatigue, and it is triggered by inadequate sleep, untreated sleep disorders, taking prescriptions that induce sleep, doing shift work, etc. Commercial drivers who operate tow trucks, buses, and tractor trailers are prone to sleeping behind the wheel. Even if you don't fall asleep, being in a drowsy state hampers your ability to pay attention and make wise decisions, and delays your reaction time when required to steer or brake abruptly.

Tell-tale signs for drowsiness when operating a vehicle include constant yawning or blinking; missing exits; drifting from your lane; hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road; and generally struggling to recall driving the past few miles. When faced with these signs, it would be expedient to pull over or switch drivers.

  • Unaware of surroundings

Failure to pay attention to the surroundings using side mirrors before switching lanes is another pitfall that causes road collisions. Overlooking such elementary driving school instructions could make you not recognize the presence of vehicles behind you, zebra crossing, or other unique settings. Traffic reports derive that many rear-end and front-end collisions, hit-and-run accidents, and sideswipes are directly linked to inattention by drivers.

  • Animals

Drivers are supposed to pay attention to other road users including animals as these too can cause distractions and consequently lead to accidents. Common animals that you may encounter on Florida's roads include deers (especially in the back roads), alligators, possums, bears, and raccoons. Being aware of animals helps you make wise decisions in the event of encountering one instantaneously.

Florida's Curious Case of Speeding Officers

Speeding is a significant problem on Florida's roads, and civilians are not the only culprits. In 2012, the Sun-Sentinel conducted a three-month investigation that surmised that the police are the worst speeders with 800 cops from a dozen agencies caught driving 90 to 130 mph on highways. Speeding by cops is no better than speeding by civilians, and therefore, everyone is called upon to uphold traffic rules. A report found that Florida officers exceeding speed limits were responsible for roughly 320 crashes and 19 fatalities between 2004 and 2012. Shockingly, only one police officer was incarcerated, and they only served for 60 days which is a clear example of double standards when holding officers accountable for wrongdoing.

Some notable findings from the Sun Sentinel's investigation were as follows:

  • 793 transponders assigned to police agencies registered to speed including routine speeding by a handful of officers
  • One out of five police vehicles drove above 90 miles per hour.
  • There were 5,100 high-speed incidences with thirteen months
  • 96% of high-speed impacts were between 90 and 110 mph

Florida law permits officers to go beyond the speed limit during emergencies, but the Sentinel dossier surmised that some officers drove much faster than permissible in such situations. SunPass records deduced that Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers drove the fastest among the officers studied, going as high as 130 mph. This behavior goes against policy requiring troopers to comply with speed regulations save for when the gravity of the situation warrants higher speeds like pursuing lawbreakers. To combat this burgeoning problem of over speeding by the police, highway patrol, and sheriffs, Florida needs more stringent measures beyond installing GPS and speed governors in patrol vehicles.

The 2018 Florida Statutes on Speeding

Florida's Statute 316.183 indicates that no individual shall drive on the road at speeds beyond what is reasonable and cautious under the conditions. Drivers must control velocity to prevent any incidences of collision in adherence to legal requirements. Secondly, the greatest speed limit for all automobiles is 30 mph in business districts or residential areas and 55 miles per hour elsewhere at all times. This law applies to every street and highway across the state. The minimum limit on roads that encompass the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (with at least four lanes in both directions) is 40 mph, and when the stipulated limit is 70 mph, the minimum speed becomes 50 mph.

Motorists are also called upon to drive at appropriately less speed when:

  • Entering and crossing a railway crossing or intersecting roads
  • Approaching and driving around a curve
  • Extraordinary hazards exist concerning other road users, e.g., bad weather or highway conditions
  • Driving towards a hill crest
  • Cruising on meandering or constricted roadways

The same regulations apply to minimum speeds. No person is allowed to operate at low speed that blocks the smooth flow of traffic, apart from when lesser velocity complies with law or needed for safe handling. Contravening any section of Statute 316.183 is considered a noncriminal traffic infringement and it is handled as a moving violation as outlined in section 318 of the Statutes.

Product Liability Involving Defective Airbags

After being involved in a product injury accident, the first task is determining who was liable for the defective item. This entity will pay for damages such as outstanding and foreseeable medical bills not to mention reimbursement for lost income and the ensuing aches and torment. In this case, liable parties could be the manufacturer of the defective product, the distributor, or the business that manufactured faulty parts.

The next priority when handling a product liability claim is determining the nature of the defect depending on the entity responsible. As outlined above, several issues could impact how airbags function. Your attorney will be looking at the following options:

  • Design defect – this happens if the design was not safe to right off the bat
  • Manufacturing defect – this occurs when flaws appear during assembly
  • Marketing defect – this happens if the product was inappropriately labeled or the instructions were misleading or neglected to issue adequate safety warnings

What Can I Do After Encountering Product Injury?

After the initial shock of the crash wears off, your next course of action following an accident due to defective airbags is:

  • Seek medical help – if you are in a position to call 911, please do so to save your life and also have an official log of injuries incurred.
  • Report the incident – if you were injured in the line of duty, inform your work supervisors to that effect and call your insurance company. Please refrain from making written or verbal statements or signing any documents without seeking legal counsel.
  • Collect evidence – this includes taking pictures of the scene, your car and the defective airbag, your injuries, and get eye-witness contact information. Jot down a detailed account of what transpired just before the accident and during the crash, as much as your brain can process.
  • Reach an attorney – call a lawyer immediately to start getting legal counsel so you do not make mistakes that could hurt your case. We consult on personal injury cases caused by defective products like airbags and give clients the best legal representation to ensure they received fair compensation.
  • No social media – curious onlookers may be tempted to post the crash on their timelines but don't post anything on social media platforms. The liable party or parties will probably comb through such sites, and they could use these posts against you, and this could harm the outcome of this product injury claim.

Get Help Finding Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

As mentioned in this guide, car collisions can occur even when you have taken the necessary safety measures. A drunk driver, distracted teenager, or even an officer driving at high speeds could ram into you, and when the airbags are defective, this accident could lead to grave injuries. Regardless of the unique circumstances of the accident, you will need an experienced team of attorneys to see your personal injury claim through. If you are in Clay County, Florida, reach the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney at 904-494-8242 so we can start examining your case and determine what compensation you deserve.