I was injured because airbags didn't open. What recourse do I have?

I was injured because airbags didn’t open. What recourse do I have?

You can report faulty vehicle design



Q. I was involved in a car accident. The four airbags on my 2007 Mazda 3 didn’t open when it rolled over and I suffered a concussion and other injuries. Is that normal? Or were the airbags faulty? And who should I report this to?

—Branko M.

A: Side airbag technology has changed significantly over the years. Early generation side bags were designed strictly for side impacts and the systems in many vehicles did not have the ability to detect rollovers. A vehicle that is 10 years old, like your Mazda, likely did not have rollover detection, so a more or less direct side impact may have been required to trigger the side airbags, which would have been normal.

The side airbags in today’s new trucks and sport utility vehicles are triggered when a rollover is detected; I believe most passenger cars do as well. A rollover has become a less frequent event in the last decade; while the potential for injury is still significant, it is much less than before thanks to head-protecting side curtain airbags, stronger roof structures that are much less likely to collapse, and electronic stability control (ESC), which helps keep a vehicle pointed in the correct direction when it starts to veer off course.

When you suffer injuries in a collision that you believe may be attributable to faulty vehicle design or operation it is important to report the event to Transport Canada (1-800-333-0510). Ideally, you should have images of the vehicle and accident site as well as information about the accident location and other vehicles involved. Most of the necessary information will be contained in the police report.

While many professionals get involved after a serious accident with injuries—first responders, insurance claims adjusters, health care and rehab providers—none of them is focused on reporting a possible vehicle defect to the appropriate authority, so this aspect of an accident may be overlooked. Everyone else assumes the police do it, but that is not always the case.