Injuries Resulting From Low-Impact Collisions

Low Impact does not Mean Low Injury

You may remember from science class in school that there were some very smart people throughout history who gave thought to things we “normal” people don’t think about. One such person was Sir Isaac Newton, and his theories about gravity, motion, and optics profoundly impacted the study of physics and are involved in our daily life.

Your elbow bumps a cup of coffee on your desk, and it falls to the floor. We don’t think about it, but Newton’s observations and theories of gravity and motion explain exactly what happened and why.

You’re sitting in your car at a red light and someone strikes you from behind. The laws of physics are involved here as your body is thrust forward, you experience sudden stress to your neck, shoulders, hips and head.

Newton looked at simple occurrences in life and reasoned that there must be a way to calculate the forces of nature using scientific methods. In the case of a moving object striking an object at rest, he reasoned correctly that two factors are important to determine the force (F) of the impact, and those are speed, or acceleration (a) and the weight, or mass (m) of the moving object.

And so what we know as Newton’s second law is F=ma or Force equals mass times acceleration.

The speed involved in a collision is important, but the mass, or weight of a car is a critical factor. Cars are heavy! When they run into another car the forces exerted on human bodies inside the vehicles are massive, no matter the speed.

Study after study using actual collisions and data from “crash-test dummies” prove that serious injuries often occur in low-impact, or low-speed vehicle crashes.

From a report prepared by leading U.S. engineering firm:

What are the scientific and medical issues involved? In the following, we shall briefly summarize them and explain what technical information is available to analyze such events.

A stopped car is struck by another vehicle from behind; the struck car and torsos of its passengers are thrown forward. However, the heads of the passengers lag behind for a fraction of a second, causing their necks to be hyper-extended (unduly strained as the torso flies forward while the head stays behind). As their torsos rebound against the seat backs, their heads now move forward, but are snapped back again, by their necks, and overshoot the torso, again causing the neck to be hyper-extended. This effect is most severe if the headrests are too low and set too far back, as they are in many cars. The whole occurrence takes less than a second.

Although the person experiencing this situation does not have overt signs of injury, the possible occurrence of soft tissue damage to the overstretched ligaments of the neck has been well documented. This damage may be permanent, causing chronic pain and limitation in neck movement.

The impact velocity of the striking (rear) car is typically not known with certainty, and this value is needed for determining resulting forces. A conservative estimate of the speed can be surmised by using the damage threshold of the cars’ bumpers (because whiplash injury is caused by low speed impacts involving no (or minimal) damage to the bumpers; hence most of the shock is transmitted to the passengers’ necks). Testing has shown the damage threshold of bumpers of many cars to be about 5 mph; thus lash forces to the neck based on a maximum 5 mph impact velocity to the struck car. However, most crash testing involves the car impacting a rigid barrier, which does not yield in any way, rather than a relatively flexible bumper of another car. Hence, the crash testing can be more severe than an actual impact with another car, and can, in fact, be equivalent to the car’s being struck with another car at up to twice the velocity used for the barrier test.

So, it is important in cases involving low-impact collision injuries that all evidence be carefully examined, and a basic knowledge of physics helps explain how large cars can cause large injuries, even when they travel at small speeds.

A qualified attorney who specializes in these types of accidents and injuries must be familiar with all the intricacies of these cases, including precedent court decisions and expert opinions and research. Gary Lazarus and Arleen Lazarus are two such attorneys, with over 20 years experience protecting the rights of victims of low-impact collision injuries.

The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus is eminently qualified to handle all Florida personal injury cases, and they may be reached at their Fort Lauderdale office by calling 954-356-0006