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Fed probes allegation airbag cut driver's ear in half

By Todd Sperry, CNN
updated 12:28 PM EDT, Wed May 16, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The driver said it could have been his neck, the federal complaint says
  • Photos of the vehicle show a protruding "metal component," the NTHSA says
  • Hyundai says it has no reports of similar injuries; it wants to inspect the car

Washington (CNN) -- Federal authorities say they've launched an investigation into the 2012 Hyundai Elantra after a vehicle owner claimed the driver-side airbag improperly deployed during a traffic accident, resulting in a severe cut to his ear.

In the complaint, the driver told authorities it "sliced my ear in half ... could have been (my) neck."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, photos of the wrecked vehicle show "a metal component protruding from the left edge of the headliner above the driver's seat." Authorities say the metal appears to have caused a laceration to the driver's ear and face, according to the report posted on the NHTSA website.

The victim told federal authorities in the complaint he has photos of the vehicle "inside and out" to support his claim.

"The evaluation is in the very early stages; neither Hyundai nor NHTSA have had an opportunity to inspect the 2012 Elantra that is the subject of this evaluation," said Jim Trainor, a senior public relations manager for Hyundai USA. Trainor emphasized Hyundai has no other reports of similar injuries from airbag deployments in the 2012 Elantra.

NHTSA tested the 2012 Hyundai Elantra in November and gave the vehicle four stars for rollover performance in crashes and five stars for side impacts. For head-on collisions, the agency gave the car three stars. The highest rating a vehicle can receive is five stars.

The collision happened on April 7 in Texas, and the driver was the only person reported injured in the vehicle. He has retained an attorney to represent his claim.

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