If I am driving a car with airbags and they do not go off as a result of a crash can the insurance company use that fact against me if I sue for my injuries?
If I am driving a car with airbags and they do not go off as a result of a crash can the insurance company use that fact against me if I sue for my injuries? If the airbags did not go off does that mean there was not “serious impact “?
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In this trial court evidence question the insurance company lawyer tried to use the fact that airbags did not deploy in a vehicle to infer or me that there is no serious impact at the time of the collision. In this case the vehicle was a 1996 model that was not equipped with side airbags. The defense was trying to argue to the jury that because no airbags deployed, including side airbags, this was a minor crash and the plaintiff could not have been so injured. The court ruled that such questions who would not be asked without the proper expert foundation because it was being used to mislead the jury.
The trial judge relied upon the 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court decision of Brenman v. Demello, 191 N.J. 17 (2006). In that case the New Jersey Supreme Court laid down the parameters for a jury charge involving using photographs of a vehicle at the time of trial. The new jury charge told the jurors that the photographs of the vehicle in the damages related thereto are a question of fact for the jury to consider; however they are not the only factor or exclusive fact for the jury to rely upon. In this case the court determined that the defense was attempting to mislead the jury because the vehicle was not equipped with any side airbags. As a result of the failure of a side airbag to deploy as a result of the crash would be misleading. The court determined that there would have to be expert testimony to a establish a foundation concerning airbag deployment and be whether or not the nature of the impact would cause that air bag deployment at all. In this case the issue as to whether the airbags deployed with not relevant without the appropriate expert testimony to prove or disapprove a fact of the case, namely causal relationship between crash and injury. Without the appropriate foundation the trial judge found the jury would not know the location of the airbag sensors on the specific vehicle and why they may or may not deploy given the airbag appointment system for any given vehicle. In addition the court ruled that expert testimony would be required in this case on that issue because the operation of the airbag deployment system is a complex mechanism beyond the understanding of a lay juror.
I’m sure this case is going to go up to the Appellate Division given the significant evidentiary issue addressed by the court here. We will keep you advised of the developments. If you have any questions regarding your case, evidence needed to prove your case, and the nature and extent of your injuries always feel free to call Hark and Hark .
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.