According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is one auto collision per minute in the United States. This includes what we think of as fender benders, small rear-enders, or accidents at low speed.
But a common misconception about these low impact car accidents is that the property damage on the car is equal to the injuries sustained by those hit. Little or no property damage? Well that means you can’t be injured. Insurance companies coined this term to make these accidents appear as if someone couldn’t sustain any personal injuries from it. This is just another trick in their arsenal of them to deny or diminish accident claims.
Even a collision at low speed (under 10 mph) is jarring to our bodies and can trigger a boost of adrenaline. This response is meant to protect the body from further injury.
Because of this, people think they aren’t injured and don’t seek medical attention. Sometimes head and neck injuries, like whiplash, may not show signs for days or weeks. In the case of a traumatic brain injury, symptoms may not be obvious at all.
What are common injuries (10) from low impact car accidents?
There are several examples of how these every day accidents can occur. Almost any type of distracted driving like texting; a car hitting into the rear-end at an intersection; a driver pulling out of a parking spot and hitting another; or even just pulling out of a driveway. These accidents can especially effect pedestrians and bicyclists. These can occur when people think they’re ok to do something other than focus on the road.
Soft-tissue injuries are the most common injury among low impact accident victims. These are injuries to the soft-tissue of muscles, ligaments, and tendons; usually in the neck and back. Of these, whiplash is the most common from a lower speed or impact car crash. Soft-tissue injuries are classified as:
- Stress injuries
How does whiplash occur in a low impact accident?
Whiplash often occurs when a person is in a stopped vehicle and is struck by another car. Many times due to the negligence of the rear-end driver.
The sudden impact causes the neck to hyperextend (bounce rapidly back and forth). The seat will push the person’s midsection forward while the head and neck fall back. The head and neck enter “hyperflexion” (a flexor muscle going beyond its normal limit) as they recover.
A General Motors (GM) crash test study found that whiplash can occur at speeds of 8 mph or less. Insurance companies have tried denying this for years despite the research. The study also found that more than half of all car accident injuries involve whiplash.
Depending on the age of the person injured, it can be permanently disabling. Many people who experienced whiplash in a car wreck have reported symptoms up to 3 years later.
Why do low impact crashes cause injuries?
Insurance companies will argue that injury claims are exaggerated because there isn’t significant property damage to the car at low speeds. But many medical specialists will treat people who have sustained debilitating injuries from low impact accidents. Studies confirm that significant cervical injuries can be caused from a low impact crash.
This is due to the nature of how whiplash occurs—a rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head and neck area. When a car strikes another at a low speed, a person’s head can accelerate faster than the car. Studies have shown in low speed crashes that a person’s peak head acceleration is 2.5x quicker than that of the car. That means if the car’s peak acceleration was 8 mph, the person’s head could be at 20 mph. The car may not take much damage, but the muscles of the neck and back may.
Insurance companies also deny that whiplash can occur where the car has a high seat back or head restraint. However, if not positioned properly, the headrest can act as a pivot point and actually cause or add to the whiplash injury. A Federal Motor Vehicle Safety study found that only 25% of adjustable headrests are positioned correctly in cars on the road. This means that 75% of the time, it will cause or add to the whiplash instead of preventing it.
What should you do if you’ve been in a low impact accident?
Those who have suffered whiplash from a low impact crash may suffer long-lasting consequences from their injuries. This is especially true if they fail to seek any medical care. Insurance companies will likely be hesitant to entertain injury claims and may deny coverage or give a lowball offer.
As with any type of personal injury, we strongly urge you to seek medical attention. While it may seem minor or that no injury occurred, it’s always best to get checked out. It’s possible your doctor may recommend physical therapy or chiropractic care. But don’t wait too long, because a significant time lapse will get your claim denied by the insurance company.
An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help navigate the claims process for you. If the adjuster isn’t reasonable in their negotiations, then your car accident lawyer will file a lawsuit seeking damages.
Like most personal injury lawyers, we offer a free case evaluation to help discuss your claim. If you were injured by the negligence of someone else, we will review the facts of your case, police report, medical records/bills, missed time from work and come up with a strategy on how to move forward.
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