The Most Common Airbag and Seatbelt Injuries

Airbags and seatbelts are designed to save your life in the event of an auto collision, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause some damage in the process.  Seatbelts stop you from being thrown though the windshield and airbags cushion your body against the impact of a collision.  While hitting an airbag is no picnic, it’s certainly better than colliding with the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield.

Still, you may suffer some injuries as a result of being held fast by your seatbelt or colliding with the airbag.  Here are a few of the most common injuries related to the protective measures employed in modern automobiles.


Abrasions, Contusions, and Burns

These are by far the most commonly seen injuries related to airbags and seatbelts.  Abrasions (scrapes) are typically caused from the friction of the skin rubbing against another surface, while contusions (bruises) are the result of impact or pressure that causes injured capillaries or blood vessels to leak into surrounding tissues.  These injuries, most commonly seen in the upper body, can range from mild to severe, but are rarely considered serious injuries.

Chemical burns are a possibility when airbags deploy.  This is because a chemical reaction is required to ensure nearly instant inflation during a collision.  Typically, heat and gas remain trapped in the airbag to cushion the impact on your body, then slowly release through vents in the sides of the airbag.  It’s not uncommon for hands and forearms to be burned by side vents if you’re gripping the steering wheel during the accident, but in rare cases, the hot gas can explode out of the airbag, generally due to defect.


This is a common injury in any auto accident scenario, and while seatbelts and airbags typically cause less whiplash than drivers and passengers would sustain without them, that doesn’t mean you won’t get soft tissue neck injuries like whiplash when the belt jerks you back or your hit the airbag.  The good news is, there are a variety of treatments for this common condition, including rest, heat and/or icing, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, pain relievers, and so on.


Any time your head is subjected to concussive force, a concussion could result, even if you hit an airbag instead of a steering wheel or dashboard.  While an airbag is likely to do a lot less damage, you should know that you could still suffer a concussion, and you should see a doctor for diagnosis if you have symptoms like loss of consciousness (even if only for a few seconds), a severe and lasting headache, dizziness or balance issues, nausea or vomiting, light sensitivity, ringing in the ears, or trouble with memory or concentration, for example.

Internal Injury or Bleeding

The forces involved in an auto accident may leave internal injuries, whether there are external injuries or not.  Rib and pelvic injuries are possible, as are abdominal, bowel, and organ injury.  If you suffer any pain or injury in the wake of an auto accident, immediate medical examination is always advisable.