Jury Awards Teenage Driver $14 Million in Airbag Injury Compensation

A jury has awarded a teenage driver, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when his car hit a tree, $14 million in airbag injury compensation after a hearing in the State of Virginia Circuit Court.

Zachary Duncan from Radford, Virginia, was just sixteen years of age when the Hyundai Tiberon he was driving left the road and crashed into a tree in February 2010. The passenger accompanying Zachary escaped unhurt, but the teenage driver suffered a traumatic brain injury which left him in a coma for a week.

Zachary (now 20 years of age) had to learn to walk and talk again after his accident and, although he graduated from High School with a modified program, will need placement in a long-term care facility as he suffers from cognitive deficiencies which make him forgetful and emotionally unstable.

Through his parents, Zachary made a claim for airbag injury compensation against the manufacturers of the car – Hyundai Motor Co – claiming that the side airbag had failed to deploy which would have in all probability prevented Zachary from sustaining his injury.

The Hyundai Motor Co denied their liability, claiming that side airbags were designed to protect the driver from side impact and that the side airbags fitted in Zachary´s Tiberon were not legislated by the industry at the time the car had been manufactured, but had been fitted by Hyundai anyway.

However, at the State of Virginia Circuit Court in Pulaski County, the jury was told that the sensors for the side airbags were located under the driver´s seat and in the wrong position for the deployment of the side airbag.

The jury deliberated for ten hours before returning a verdict in favor of Zachary on the grounds that Hyundai had breached the implied warranty of merchantability and supplied a vehicle which was “unreasonably dangerous”. Zachary was awarded $14 million in general damages, with his family receiving a further $140,000 in respect of the medical expenses they had already incurred.