Expertly Speaking

Assessing Airbag Anomalies

R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer

It is probably a good thing that most people could not name the manufacturer of the airbag installed in their vehicle’s steering wheel or dash panel. Airbags should be anonymous, as their brand is irrelevant to the occupants they protect; however, there is one airbag manufacturer that has pierced the veil of airbag anonymity, but for all the wrong reasons: Takata. With tens of millions of airbags recalled world-wide due to numerous serious injuries resulting from exploding metallic canisters, Takata – now in bankruptcy – as well as dozens of its corporate customers, are increasingly becoming the focus of liability investigations when improper airbag performance is suspected.

The “typical” Takata airbag malfunction is manifested during airbag deployment events. Over time, the metallic canister that contains the airbag pyrotechnic charge can weaken. As a result, the deployment detonation that normally ejects the airbag can cause the canister to explode, which produces metallic shards. Albeit rare, a tell-tale sign of canister explosion – apart from finding metallic fragments throughout the occupant compartment, or worse – is finding tears, rips, and holes in the airbag fabric. Although not an exhaustive evaluation, a routine, non-destructive airbag examination can quickly identify this kind of evidence. However, there can be times when unfurling an airbag during a preliminary, post-crash examination is ill-advised. Such was the case in a recent vehicle examination.

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Workzone Safety Tips

Safety Tips:

If you encounter work zones, please keep the following tips in mind for your safety and the safety of highway workers.

  • Drive the posted work zone speed limit.
  • Stay alert and pay close attention to signs and flaggers.
  • Turn on your headlights if signs instruct you to do so.
  • Maintain a safe distance around vehicles. Don’t tailgate.
  • Use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly.
  • Avoid distractions and give your full attention to the road.
  • Always buckle up.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Be patient.
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Drone Documentation

DJS Update: 3D Laser Scanning & Drones

Jon W. Adams, Director of 3D Reality Capture

With our state-of-the-art technology, including HDS Laser Scanners and Drones, DJS is able to maintain a health and safety conscious approach while collecting relevant information for your case.

Our Rapid Response team is able to document sites, vehicles, and other types of evidence comprehensively and efficiently, utilizing remote sensing technologies. Our LIDAR scanners are mounted on a tripod and have the capacity to reach critical evidence within a range of 130 meters (~425 ft). The speed of data collection coupled with the density of the measurements taken allow us to thoroughly measure critical items, while maintaining social distancing standards.

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Windshield Mystery

John R. Yannaccone, P.E., Sr. Mechanical Engineer

Case Description: Late one evening, as the plaintiff was crossing a bridge on his drive home, another vehicle entered his travel lane and impacted the front of his vehicle. The police report indicated the encroaching vehicle had impacted the bridge and rotated as it crossed the centerline prior to striking the plaintiff’s vehicle. The police report also indicated that the plaintiff was unbelted and sustained serious head injuries when his head passed through the windshield. The defendant in the case alleged the plaintiff’s failure to wear his seatbelt substantially contributed to his serious injuries.

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Vehicle Fires

R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer

Several years ago, a busy turnpike service structure sustained substantial fire damage. Fire investigators suspected the fire originated within a turnpike service vehicle parked nearby. Separately, but soon thereafter, another turnpike service van sustained extensive fire damage while responding to a road-side emergency call. Mindful of the coincidence, the turnpike authority commissioned an engineering investigation of the root cause of each loss.

An evaluation of the physical evidence remaining at the structure fire revealed patterns and fire effects confirming the fire originated within the turnpike service vehicle. Containment of fire to the second vehicle was self-evident. Based on these observations, both vehicles were closely examined revealing evidence of electrical system malfunctions. Although each fire was caused by different malfunctions, both were related to aftermarket adaptations to the vehicle’s electrical systems. Further, an engineering analysis revealed that the workmanship, not the aftermarket components, was the root cause of the malfunctions. Based on these findings, the turnpike commission extended the investigation to its entire fleet of road-side emergency vehicles.

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Pedestrian v. Vehicle Collision: A Biomechanical Analysis

Robert J. Nobilini, Ph.D., Biomechanical Engineer

Case Synopsis: A pedestrian was crossing the road when he was struck by a passing vehicle. The plaintiff stated that he had a green light, looked both ways, and stepped out into the street when he noticed the defendant’s vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed. The plaintiff testified that when he observed the vehicle, he attempted to jump back, but his right leg was struck by the front passenger side corner of the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff ran out into the roadway from between two parked cars and into the rear passenger side of his vehicle.

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