“Low Impact” Automobile Accidents

Some people can suffer a herniated disc just from bending over to work in their garden, and some people can be involved in a head-on collision and walk away with barely a bruise. Every automobile accident, just like every person, is unique. Yet, in so many automobile accident cases, defense lawyers will try to convince juries that it is not possible for someone to be badly injured when there is no visible damage to their car.

Many insurance companies take the position that there is a scientific correlation between the amount of visible property damage to a car versus the seriousness of an occupant’s injuries. What do metal, plastic, and glass have in common with human tissue, bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons, and nerves? In a so-called “low impact” automobile accident, should we truly compare metal, plastic, and glass to flesh, bone, and blood to decide whether someone is really injured? Is there truly a correlation between the cost to repair damage to an automobile and the cost to treat a human being’s injuries and make them whole again?

There are, in fact, no scientific test results, statistical studies, or other scientific data that support the insurance defense myth that no property damage means no personal injury or that minor property damage means minor personal injury. For that matter, there are no tests or studies which show severe property damage equals severe personal injury.

Some features on today’s vehicles have very little to do with occupant safety and more to do with reducing repair costs. For example, car bumpers are no longer made from expensive cast metal parts. Instead, these bumpers are made with disposable and lightweight metal and plastic components that crush or give way easily. The purpose of these bumpers is to absorb the energy of a low-speed collision before causing damage to expensive-to-repair parts like fenders and hoods. Oftentimes, these bumpers do little to protect the car’s occupants. Bumpers on colliding vehicles often do not line up vertically or do not stay lined up during impact, so the bumpers do not engage at all. Some bumpers, with their aerodynamic styling, slide under the bumpers of the vehicles they strike and do not absorb the impact. Also, the bars underneath bumper covers, which are supposed to absorb some of the crash energy, often are not big enough or are too weak to provide much protection from damage. Even if these bumpers do work as they are designed, there are scientific studies indicating that the energy created by an automobile collision is not absorbed by the bumper but is actually transmitted forward and ultimately absorbed by the automobile’s occupants.

In all, low impact does not mean any injury, and sometimes automobile accidents can cause very real and very significant personal injuries regardless of whether the cost to repair the damaged vehicle is low.

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