When I was a kid, there was a cartoon called “There Oughta be a Law”.  The cartoon took a humorous look at some of the absurdities our species gravitates toward long before the “Darwin Awards” books became popular. The inference was if there were laws against doing silly things, people might not do them.  Having practiced law since 1987, I can attest to the fact laws do not stop foolishness.  There are plenty of laws designed to keep us safe which are ignored by large sections of the population.

One such mistake which almost rose to the level of a Darwin Award (you have to die or remove yourself from the breeding population to win one of those) involved a former neighbor of mine. I’ll call her Wanda because there are no Wandas in my life and so this won’t offend anyone I know.

Airbags have saved lots of lives since they became standard equipment, but like any safety/rescue tool they have to be used correctly or they can and will cause harm.  Wanda hadn’t given much thought to this prior to putting her foot on the dashboard in her car. She was a passenger when there was a collision with another vehicle.  The airbag did what it was designed to do……it deployed quickly and with great force.

Wanda’s upper body was slouched back in her seat.  Her foot being elevated and on the dash, it was her leg which came into contact with the inflating airbag.  The airbag forced her leg back and up, ripping tendons and ligaments and breaking a bone.  The human leg isn’t designed to move so far with such force and speed.  It was a very painful and unnecessary injury.  Wanda was in a cast and bedridden for many weeks.  Had her foot been on the floor, the airbag would have fulfilled its function and protected her upper body without causing such extreme injury to another part of her body.

Even if the accident had been the fault of the driver of the other car, there would be an issue of comparative negligence, i.e. since Wanda helped cause her own injury, any award she might receive would be reduced by the percentage she was deemed to helped cause the harm.

There are currently a number of recalls and lawsuits pertaining to Takata airbags.  This is due to a number of people being killed or seriously injured by defective airbags.  For more information, go to:  http://fortune.com/2016/06/10/the-takata-airbag-recall-is-now-a-full-blown-crisis/

The point of this blog is not to discuss defective airbags or comparative negligence.  I am writing because I frequently see people making Wanda’s mistake.  Having seen how badly she was hurt, I cringe every time I see a car go by with feet on the dash.  The first time my teenage daughter tried this move while I was driving, she heard about it from me.  To her credit, she took me seriously.

Maybe there should be a cartoon called “A Word to the Wise”?

  • Posted by Michael Madhusudan Blumert October 18, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks for the heads up to avoid the legs up!

  • Posted by Wanda´s Advocate April 20, 2023 at 6:13 am

    Dear Kurt, Evidently we have a friend in common, ¨Wanda.¨ There is much she has admired about you, your family, and your career. And yes, it has been a while since you and Wanda have run into each other or chatted. I know you take your work very seriously, and honestly, if someone needed a criminal lawyer, Wanda would recommend you--and has recommended you on more than one occasion. (Not sure if those asking took her advice or not.) Wanda stumbled upon this particular blog and her initial response when she saw the image was, ¨Oh God¨ but done with an internal grimacing groan more often associated with the letters WTF. While I think this particular blog does make important points, and the pseudonym is appreciated, it would be good to get your facts straight. More specifically, I think you could have made the same point without referencing a specific person, ¨Wanda¨ and what went through. Certainly Wanda is not the only one to whom a similar injury has happened. Further, you could have cloaked this better by omitting the ¨neighbor¨ reference. I think Wanda would have appreciated that. Other things that would be good for you to know: 1. Front air bags are not safe if anyone riding in the front is under 5´ 5¨ feet on the dash or not. (And yes, many are defective as you noted.) The best advice for anyone under 5´ 5¨ is to have the seat as far back as possible. 2. Wanda recovered decently, but it did take a while. It was a life-changing experience, for sure, with some lasting effects. Wanda was pretty well represented by her attorney and made out ok (settled out of court). Wanda might have done better to go to court, but lawsuits can drag on for years and can be very invasive even when someone is the victim. For example, Wanda did not enjoy being filmed by a PI staked outside where she went for physical therapy, for example. Even worse, a PI managed to get a very temporary job where Wanda works. (Same PI as for physical therapy--did he/the insurance company who hired him think he wouldn´t be noticed? Still--very creepy and invasive feeling, as Wanda tells me. 3. If Wanda ever needs your legal help with something, I have a hunch she will reach out to you. Who knows, maybe there is an old neighborhood discount that would apply. You know, for ¨Wanda¨ who was honestly just wondering what her old neighbor was up to (ok, so recent local, state, national and international news did put you on Wanda´s radar) and had the अटपटे अप्रसन्नता of stumbling upon this particular blog. (I always wanted to study Sanskrit. Google Translate comes in handy, though it could be flawed.)


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