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Can Low-Impact Accidents Cause Injuries?



Many automobile accidents are low impact, or under 10 miles per hour and cause only minor property damage. In a sizable number of these cases, however, the occupants may complain of various injuries from neck and back strains to more serious spinal or joint problems. Most of these victims face considerable opposition to their injury claims from skeptical insurance adjusters and defense attorneys.

The Forces Involved in a Car Accident

Few people will dispute the great forces involved in a high-speed automobile collision, but these forces also apply in low-speed impacts. A typical automobile weighs about 2,000 pounds, so a collision at 10 miles per hour will result in an average impact force of about 3.7 tons. A larger vehicle of about 3,000 pounds, colliding at 10 miles per hour, will produce an average impact force of about 5.6 tons, a significant blow to an occupant’s neck and back.

Victims in rear-end collisions are also at risk regardless of the speed of the impact, based on reliable car crash studies, grounded on a principle known as “magnification of acceleration.” This means that the occupants of the car will accelerate much faster than the car being impacted and so will absorb much of the force involved — over 5 tons worth in the example given above. An experienced automobile accidents attorney should be consulted for more information.

Injuries From a Low-Impact Crash

Documented tests demonstrate that low-impact accidents can affect the soft tissues in a person’s neck or back, such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Elderly persons or those in poor physical condition who may have preexisting injuries in these areas are more susceptible to these types of injuries from impacts even at low speeds. A skilled PI attorney should be able to convince a jury or insurer if these circumstances exist in your case.

A soft tissue sprain produces a partial or complete tear. The occupant’s position in the car, the use of head restraints, or whether the head was rotated all affect the extent of the injury. In a rear impact, the occupant’s neck and back are first thrown backward and then forward, forcing the body to stretch unnaturally, so the person may feel the effects of the injuries for months. In some cases, an injured party will have chronic pain that lasts for years. Data on impacts and injuries are collected by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration.

Proof of Injury

Proving an injury from a low-impact accident can be a daunting task for any personal injury attorney. Typically, an accident reconstruction expert may have to be retained and credible medical testimony provided before a dubious insurance adjuster can be convinced of the validity of an injury claim resulting from a low-impact accident.