Airbag Recall Question: Can I Sue for Car Rollover Injuries?


Lisa Allen

A reader reached out with this question: “I was in a rollover car accident and the airbags never deployed. I was seriously injured and life-flighted to a hospital, where I stayed for a week. I later found out my car was part of an airbag recall. Can I claim compensation for my medical bills from the airbag company?”

The short answer is: Yes, but.

The “but” is important here. When you fill out our attorney-matching form, you must answer yes to the question: “Is the accident anyone else’s fault?” Even if you rolled your car and no other vehicle was present, it’s still a key requirement.

The question, “Is the accident anyone else’s fault?” doesn’t always mean “did another car or driver cause this accident?” This question is asking if an attorney can hold any other person or entity responsible for your medical bills. In this case, because your airbags didn’t deploy, it is reasonable to question whether the manufacturer is the liable party.

While each case is different (depending on the circumstances and location), a few things generally apply. Even if another car isn’t present at your accident, the information below should help you understand whether you may have a claim.

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What Is an Airbag Recall?

One of the responsibilities of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is to issue safety standards for vehicles. The NHTSA also requires manufacturers to recall vehicles with safety-related defects. These recalls also apply when certain vehicles fail to meet federal standards. Since enacting the safety act in 1966, these recalls affected:

  • More than 390 million vehicles (everything from cars and trucks to motorcycles and mopeds)
  • 46 million tires
  • 66 million pieces of equipment
  • 42 million child safety seats

It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to notify consumers about any issue, including an airbag recall. They use state registration data to mail information out to each affected individual. If a manufacturer does not do this in a timely manner, the risk of having an accident because of a defective part increases.

This can become tricky and more complicated, however, if you purchase a used car. New car dealerships cannot sell defective vehicles during an active recall. However, here is no similar federal law to protect consumers buying used ones with defective parts. This shifts the burden onto individuals to actively monitor recall information to ensure their vehicles are safe to drive.

Does this mean that, if you have an accident and your vehicle is a used car, that you cannot sue the defective airbag’s manufacturer? That’s a complicated question that only an experienced auto injury attorney can answer. But if you take steps to keep your registration up to date, it’s reasonable to expect a manufacturer to notify you of any active recalls as well as remedies to make your vehicle safe. Failing to notify you of your airbag recall in a timely manner may be a clear violation of established safety standards. You can learn more about what is expected of manufacturers in the recall process.

How Can I Find Out About Another Airbag Recall or Other, Similar Issues?

Own a used car or worry that news of an outstanding airbag recall won’t reach you? Thankfully, you can monitor industry information on your own in different ways.

One way is to check your VIN number at this database for outstanding recalls. You can also subscribe to email alerts from the NHTSA or register your vehicle with Carfax.

Is It Worth Talking To an Attorney?

If you are in an accident or injured because of an airbag recall or defective vehicle, it can absolutely be worth your time to talk with an experienced attorney. Not only will you learn if your particular circumstances warrant a claim, but you can discuss the average insurance settlement rates by accident type and state.

Because every case is different, whether an attorney can help will depend on the unique facts of your case. Before you talk with an attorney, try to gather as much information as possible. This is so you can provide a clear, comprehensive picture of the circumstances around your accident. Download a free auto accident consultation checklist here to see what information and documents you should bring with you. The more information you provide, the better your attorney can judge whether you may have a case.

Remember that all our auto accident attorneys work on contingency. This means that there are no up-front costs for your consultation. If we take your case, you won’t pay anything for the work we do unless you win your claim.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online auto accident case evaluation now!

Lisa Allen

Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.