Airbag Burns and Other Unexpected Car Crash Injuries

    While many common injuries may be caused by car accidents, there are always outliers. Rare, seemingly unexplainable car accident injuries can leave victims totally confused. During the high-adrenaline, high-stress situation of a car accident, things can happen in the blink of an eye, such as airbag injuries that require medical attention. When victims regather their senses, they might be totally unable to explain how their injuries actually occurred. The good news is that all injuries can be explained by carefully piecing together the evidence from a crash. In addition, it is worth noting that someone else has probably experienced the same injury as you – even if your injury seems completely rare and unique.

    The bad news is that you need to prove that your injury was caused by some form of negligence if you wish to receive compensation. This means that some of the most rare motor vehicle accident injuries must be investigated thoroughly to determine exactly how they occurred and what caused them. So what are some examples of unexpected, rare car accident injuries? In this blog, we’re discussing airbag burns and a few other unexpected accident injuries.

    Airbag Burns Explained

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    There are a lot of risks that people need to be aware of when it comes to airbag safety. When most people think about airbag deployment, they picture an inflatable cushion filled with air. But the truth is that automobile airbags are not filled with normal air. Instead, airbag inflation uses dangerous, potentially toxic gases like sodium azide or sodium hydroxide. These gases are used because of their ability to inflate airbags in a fraction of a second. The gases are specifically chosen for their explosive qualities. While this can help inflate airbags quicker, it may also pose a risk to motorists under certain circumstances.

    If the airbag ruptures, the gases can affect motorists. Remember, these gases are activated at incredibly high temperatures, and these hot gasses can cause severe burn injuries. Not only are these gases hot, but they are also toxic. Face and eye injuries are common since sodium hydroxide, in particular, is caustic and can cause severe chemical burns to the skin, eyes, and upper extremity that requires intense burn care. In some cases, this gas has caused motorists to lose their hair or cause enough damage to the skin to require skin grafts.

    In addition to the chemical reaction caused by the gases, bag deployment can cause friction burns. Remember, these airbags inflate in a fraction of a second. Such fast movement can easily rub against your skin, causing severe friction burns and abrasions. Since the airbag is designed to protect your head and face, burns to the facial area are common. Victims may also suffer burns to the neck and arms. One journal noted that airbag ventilation holes are strategically placed where the driver grasps the steering wheel. This creates a high chance of thermal or alkali burns on the hands and wrists. Second-degree burns are not uncommon. 

    All of these issues are considered acceptable trade-offs considering the preventative potential of airbags. Because these airbags can save motorists from death, burns, and other issues will likely not be addressed in the future. After all, victims would probably much rather survive with a few burns than not survive at all. However, this does not mean that airbag manufacturers can escape liability for causing these injuries. If you have been harmed by a malfunctioning airbag, you are fully entitled to pursue legal action and receive a settlement for your damages. You never signed up for an airbag that causes serious burns to the face, neck, and arms. 

    Shattered Kneecaps

    Another less-common car accident injury is a shattered kneecap. This was especially common with certain models of automobiles, and it is not as common with modern vehicles today. Nevertheless, some victims have suffered shattered kneecaps after certain types of collisions. Most of these collisions involve victims being jolted forward in their seats. Usually, this involves the driver of the vehicle, and their kneecap moves forward to impact the ignition module. The most severe knee injuries occur when these ignition systems are coated in a hardened metal housing. When the kneecap impacts this metal, it causes the bone to shatter completely. This injury may also occur in other types of vehicles providing the forward motion is severe enough. 

    A shattered kneecap can lead to serious, life-altering consequences. Sometimes, shattered kneecaps can be treated with a cast and recover fairly quickly. In other situations, the knee is permanently damaged. This may require a metal implant – especially for older injury victims. The injury may also cause the leg muscle to atrophy and lose strength over time. Some victims may no longer be able to engage in their favorite activities after shattered kneecaps, such as sports. 

    Smoke/Toxin Inhalation

    Car fires can cause serious issues for victims. Fires may erupt in many different ways, and some vehicles are more prone to fires than others. Some vehicles have even been recalled due to their tendency to ignite. Vehicle fires are much more common after collisions, and these fires can spark from fuel tanks. It is also worth mentioning that electric vehicles can also ignite due to the chemical nature of their batteries. In either situation, one of the worst potential consequences is inhaling smoke and toxins. 

    If a victim survives with only smoke inhalation injuries, they can count themselves lucky. After all, smoke inhalation is much better than second-degree burns or even the loss of life. If a victim has survived with smoke inhalation injuries, they likely managed to escape the wreckage before the fires become too great. That being said, smoke inhalation can still be very serious. In fact, smoke inhalation can even starve the brain of oxygen – potentially causing brain damage in certain situations. It may also cause permanent damage to the lungs and overall respiratory tract. 

    Many chemicals are present in vehicles, and these toxic chemicals may be released during a vehicle fire. These toxins may cause additional health issues for accident victims. 

    Collapsed Lungs

    Another somewhat rare injury after a car accident is a collapsed lung. The technical, medical term for this injury is “pneumothorax.” Collapsed lungs generally occur after blunt force trauma to the chest. This may be due to the driver moving forward and striking objects such as the steering wheel or the dashboard. Collapsed lungs may also be caused by impacts from airbags. A lung begins to collapse when it is punctured and the air begins to infiltrate into the chest cavity. Survivors of this injury experience severe pain when they attempt to breathe. It is crucial that they receive medical treatment from first responders as soon as possible after the accident occurs. People who have suffered collapsed lungs may be unaware of the true extent of their injuries. 


    A car accident victim may suffer temporary or permanent blindness. Although this type of injury is relatively rare, many things can cause blindness in car accident victims. Sometimes, it can be as simple as a blunt force impact on the brain or the facial area. Some of these injuries can tear retinas. Other impacts can damage optic nerves. Finally, a car accident may result in blindness if the victim is impacted by shards of glass or metal flying at high velocities. The classic example would be a broken windscreen that shatters into the victim's face and eye area. Retinal detachment is probably the most common cause of blindness for car accident victims. 

    Blindness can cause serious, life-changing consequences for accident victims. Some may be unable to live independently, and others may lose the ability to earn an income. Many people who become blind may be cured with adequate medical treatment, but even temporary blindness can lead to mental health issues such as depression. 

    Teeth Knocked Out

    One of the rarest types of car accident injuries is the loss of teeth. This may be caused by several factors. First – and perhaps most commonly – teeth can be knocked out by airbags. The airbag is designed to cushion motorists near their head and facial area, so it would make sense for these airbags to sometimes strike people’s mouths with such force that it knocks their teeth out. Indeed, some dental clinics have noted that they have treated patients with these exact injuries. Often, bone grafts and implants are required. Even if teeth are not completely knocked out by airbags, they may be sufficiently weakened to the point where the roots eventually reabsorb and die.

    Where Can I Find a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney in Chicago?

    If you’ve been searching for a qualified, experienced personal injury lawyer in Chicago, look no further than Palermo Law Group. Over the years, we have helped numerous victims with serious injuries, including those who have suffered rare, seemingly unexplainable car accident injuries. We know these injuries can be confusing and distressing, and you might not know how to proceed. The most important thing is to get medical treatment as soon as possible. From there, you can book a consultation with us and strive for a favorable legal outcome. During your consultation, we will assess your unique situation and determine the best route forward. By investigating the circumstances of your injury, we can figure out exactly what and who was responsible. Book your consultation and strive for justice today.



    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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