Is My Car Totaled If the Airbags Deploy?

You may have been told that any time your airbags go off during a crash, your car is considered automatically totaled. So what’s the story? Is this true? No, your car is not automatically totaled if the airbags go off.

But that doesn’t mean you should assume the insurance adjuster is being dishonest if they say your vehicle is totaled after a crash, either. Many auto wrecks that are serious enough to set off the airbags do cause enough damage to total the affected vehicles.

What Does It Mean If Your Car is “Totaled?”

You may have also been told that a car is totaled when the cost to repair the vehicle is more than the vehicle is worth. This isn’t quite true, either. A car can still be “totaled” by the insurance company even if it’s fair market value is worth more than the cost of repairs, up to a point.

This point is called the “total loss threshold” and it can vary from state to state. In New York, the total loss threshold is 75% of the vehicle’s fair market value. So for example, if the car was worth $5,000 before the damage caused by the accident, as long as the damage to the vehicle will cost less than $3,750 to repair, the vehicle will not be totaled and the insurance company must repair it.

Do I Have to Replace My Airbags After a Crash?

If your airbags went off after a collision, and your vehicle was not totaled, make sure that the insurance company pays to have your airbags replaced with new, OEM (meaning, identical to those installed in the vehicle when it was new) airbags! Airbags cannot and should not be reused once they’ve been in a crash.

According to New York law, deployed airbags must be replaced with new or “certified salvage airbags.” However, since there is no current way to certify salvage parts (meaning parts that have been taken off vehicles that were previously totaled, and then resold to be used in repairs) in New York, it is essentially illegal to put used airbags in your car.

What Happens If the Airbags Didn’t Go Off?

In most cases, if you are in a crash where the airbags don’t go off, it will be because it was only a minor collision that isn’t likely to result in any injuries.

Airbags can cause injuries, including broken bones and friction burns, because they inflate so rapidly. That’s why they are designed to only go off in collisions where the victim is in danger of serious injury or death.

The reasoning is that it’s better to have a small injury from an airbag than a big injury from the moment of impact in a serious crash. But it’s better to have no injury than a small injury from an airbag in a minor crash. But sometimes airbags don’t go off when they should.

What Happens If My Airbag Was Defective?

If you were seriously injured in a car accident because there was a problem with your airbags, you could potentially file a defective product lawsuit against your vehicle manufacturer or the manufacturer of your airbags.

There are a number of ways airbags can be considered defective. Examples of defective airbags might include:

The most famous example of defective airbags is the recalled Takata airbags that were at high risk of exploding when they deployed, killing 24 people worldwide and injuring at least 240 others (as of February 2018).

Tens of millions of airbags were affected, and despite several rounds of recalls, some might still be in vehicles today.

If you were in an accident and were injured as a result of a defective airbag, do not allow the insurance company to declare the vehicle totaled. When the insurance company “totals” a car, they are essentially purchasing the car from you, writing you a check for the car and then taking possession of it. If you intend to file a defective product claim, you will need to retain the car and the airbag as evidence.

After a Collision, Call Catalano Law

When you’ve been injured in a crash, whether because the airbags went off or because they didn’t, you deserve compensation for your injuries, and we want to help you get it. Contact our experienced Syracuse car accident attorneys today for a free case review.