Are the air bags in your car functioning properly?It’s a worrisome question because there’s no practical way to know if the air bags work — until they’re needed.

A class action suit has been filed against a total of seven automakers. The lawsuit alleges that the automakers — Chrysler/Fiat, Mitsubishi, Kia, Acura, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai — looked the other way long after it became apparent that there was a problem with some of their vehicles’ air bags.

An investigation by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation into the issue is ongoing. Drivers had begun reporting problems with air bags not deploying in an accident. Eventually, the problem was tied to a defective air bag control unit that is supposed to sense the signs of a collision and deploy the bag automatically.

Several of the named manufacturers did issue recalls on their vehicles over the air bags. The question is whether or not they acted in a timely fashion — or whether they hoped the issue would go away if they ignored it long enough. The lawsuit accuses the companies of putting corporate profits above human lives. For their part, the majority of the companies have issued statements denying that they ignored problems or would ever knowingly put consumers in harm’s way.

Sometimes, it isn’t just the car accident that ends up causing a serious injury to a driver or passenger. Sometimes the safety equipment we rely on in an accident fails to function properly — turning what should be no more than a minor accident into a tragedy for everyone involved. If you’re injured in such an accident, take the time to learn more about your legal options before you act.