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Low Velocity Collisions
Many of my clients are confused (and sometimes embarrassed) about being hurt in a low-velocity collision. In fact, these low speed impacts are the cause of many injuries that form the basis of many lawsuits. Injuries from a minor collision are often to the neck and are especially common if your vehicle has been “rear ended” by another vehicle. Whiplash is a common injury from a low velocity motor vehicle accident when your vehicle is hit from behind by another vehicle.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a neck sprain which occurs when your head is suddenly jolted in a whip-like movement. While whiplash is most common after a rear end collision, you can also get whiplash if your vehicle is hit from other directions. According to research from Peugeot S.A./Renaust Laboratory of Accidentology and Biomechanics, the risk for whiplash injury is actually greater when below 9.3 MPH compared to speeds above it.
There wasn’t any damage to my car, so why am I hurt?
There is a big misconception among the general public that the amount of damage to your vehicle determines the severity of your injury after an accident. Most people think that a car accident that involves minor (or no) damage to the vehicle should only result in minor injury. As an experienced personal injury lawyer, I can tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Vehicles are now built to sustain relatively high speed impacts without causing significant structural damage to the vehicle. This means that the vehicle does not absorb the energy from the accident; instead, the energy is transferred to you as the occupant of the vehicle, resulting in injury. Research suggests that the high impact forces of a collision are transmitted directly to you in a low-speed impact, and your vehicle does not begin to “crush” until there is a significant impact speed.
Wasn’t my bumper supposed to absorb the shock of the collision?
Your vehicle’s bumper is designed to reduce damage to your vehicle in a low-speed collision. It was not designed to be a safety device to prevent or reduce injuries to you as an occupant of the vehicle. The more spring-like rear bumpers have less damage costs, however the accident victim experiences more of a neck snap and the potential for greater injury.
I was wearing my seatbelt, why didn’t it protect me?
My clients are often under the mistaken belief that they shouldn’t have been injured in a low velocity accident because they were wearing a seatbelt. In fact, the seatbelt has very little effect on preventing whiplash type injuries. The seatbelt and shoulder harness may even increase the forces which must be absorbed by the head and neck. Seatbelts are there to prevent your body from going through the windshield if an accident occurs. This is a good thing. However, in a low velocity collision, seatbelts may not be entirely helpful.
How come I am hurt but other occupants of my vehicle were not?
There are other factors that can contribute to you getting injured in a low velocity collision. Women are more susceptible to whiplash, as their neck muscles are generally not as strong as those of men. Also, if you are suffering from a pre-existing condition such as degenerative joint disease and spinal stenosis, your potential for a whiplash injury is increased because your neck is less resilient. Where you were sitting in the vehicle can also have an effect on what type of forces your neck was exposed to in the collision.
I didn’t feel hurt at the time of the collision, so how am I hurt now?
Another issue with low impact collisions is that whiplash and other types of pain may not always show up right away. It is not unusual for the pain to develop days after the accident, usually within the first three-five days. It is also possible for pain to develop a few weeks after an accident. This does not mean that the pain was not caused by the accident.
What can I do to help avoid injury from a low impact collision?
Your headrest is your best protection from a neck injury in a minor collision. Even though it may not be the most comfortable position in which to travel, your head restraint should be as high as the top of your head, in order to stop your head from jolting backwards in a collision. If your head is turned at the time of the collision, the injury will likely be more severe. If possible, it is best to “brace yourself” if you think you are going to be involved in a collision. There is also some research that shows that the harder/stiffer the seatback, the less injury that will occur.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a low velocity collision and you are suffering from pain, it is important to get to an experienced personal injury lawyer to advise you of your rights. At Santucci Law, we have experience fighting insurance companies to get our clients the compensation they deserve, even after a low velocity collision. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Santucci Law for a free consultation. We will be your bridge over troubled waters.
Patricia Santucci is a personal injury lawyer born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She holds several degrees having attended King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Windsor and an Ontario Teaching Degree from Teacher’s College as well as her Ontario Teaching Certificate. After graduating from the University of Alberta law school she was called to the bar in 2000. You can find Patricia on Google+ and LinkedIn or directly through this website