The Truth About Low-Speed, Rear-Impact Collisions and Bodily Injuries

Morrison and Hughes Personal Injury Attorneys Truth About Rear Impact Collisions

As you can well imagine, being struck from the rear is a common occurrence when driving around metro Atlanta.  Just look to your right and your left, your review mirror, or at the car immediately in front of you and chances are you won’t see anyone adhering to the old admonition of leaving one car space for every 10 mph of speed. Following too closely to the car ahead of reduces the time you have to react when you see brake lights and be able to stop in time to avoid rear-ending them. With the high risk for car accidents in Atlanta, it’s a good idea to have personal injury attorneys you trust.

The Truth About Low-Speed, Rear-Impact Collisions and Bodily Injuries

You’ve Just Been Hit from Behind: “What Do I Do Now?”

So, you’ve just been rear-ended. You felt a “thump,” your car jerked a little and so did your neck.  You pull over, get out of your car and look at the damage to your car’s rear bumper while rubbing your injury. The damage looks minimal, maybe just a dent or a crease is visible. The police arrive and ask if you are hurt and want an ambulance, to which you respond “no.” You exchange insurance information, get the incident number from the officer and continue with your day. 

When you go to bed, maybe take a couple Motrin or Aleve because your neck is still sore. But when you wake up in the morning, your neck is killing you, you can barely turn your head to one side or the other, and the pain radiates all the way down into your back, possibly even into your shoulders and arms. Congratulations. You have what we personal injury attorneys refer to as a “MIST” (“minor impact, soft tissue) case, which is not only the most common kind of claim from a car collision, but also the most difficult to pursue successfully.

Research and Data on MIST Cases is Not Particularly Accurate, but Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help You Sort Through Your Options

Historically, research pertaining to low-speed rear-impact collisions has not been conducted using standard methodologies, well documented and widely disseminated. It will come as no surprise that much of this research has been conducted on behalf of car companies and insurance companies, usually on the friendliest terms to help minimize claims. Fortunately, doctors and chiropractors, however, have been treating these sort of soft-tissue injuries for decades. As a result, the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Injuries, 5th Edition, lists whole-person impairments for soft-tissue injuries thereby verifying the potential for significant, and potentially permanent, injuries resulting from low-speed rear-impact collisions.

Without going into complex mathematics, the simplest way to describe how an injury results from a low-speed, rear-impact collision is the change in the vehicle velocity over the duration of the crash event. But changes in velocity are only one factor to be considered; to properly evaluate the severity of a collision one must considered the mass of the vehicles involved, stopping distance from beginning to end of the crash event, use and type of restrain systems (always wear your 3-point safety belt!), occupant age and gender, pre-existing soft-tissue compromises, if any, and body position during the crash event. Most jurors have little difficulty accepting a person is injured when the property damage is severe, but convincing that individual the same thing is true when only a dent or a crease is visible is an entirely different situation.

While most insurance adjusters pooh-pooh MIST claims, it has been documented that “most occupants sustained symptoms in impacts where the change in velocity was 10 to 15 km/h [6.21 to 9.32 mph]”[1]. Early studies strongly correlate this research. Brault (1998) reported approximately 29% of subjects exposed to a 2.49 mph speed changes and 38% of subjects exposed to 4.97mph speed changes experienced Whiplash-Associated Disorders (“WAD”).[2]

Contrary to What the Adjuster Will Tell You, More People are Injured in a MIST Collision Than a High-Speed Collisions

One of the most common defenses you’ll hear from an adjuster with respect to low-speed rear-impact cases where the driver who was rear-ended didn’t get taken to the ER by ambulance is you couldn’t have been that injured if you didn’t go to the ER. Most people, who aren’t thinking long-term about a personal injury lawsuit, go home if they aren’t bleeding, nothing’s broken, etc., hoping they’ll feel better the next day. 

Studies have shown that “it is not unusual for injuries from rear car crashes, especially soft tissue neck injuries, to go unnoticed until several hours or days after the crash … that often lacks any external or radiological evidence.”[3] Interestingly enough, despite better safety standards recommended by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) occupants in no-damage crashes suffer almost double the number of injuries as those in which there was “total destruction” of the vehicle.[4]  In fact, the Hijoka, Narusawa and Nakamura study revealed that when there was slight damage to the car, damage to the bumper or one-third or less of the car was damaged the occupants had significantly more injuries than when the vehicle was totally destroyed.

Put Our MIST Expertise to Work for YOU! Call One of Our Personal Injury Attorneys Today

MIST cases are by far the most common sort of claim arising from automobile collisions.  If you’ve been involved in a minor-impact, low-speed collision and suffered soft-tissue trauma, and all the at-fault driver’s insurance company is telling you is you have no claim because there was little or no physical damage to your car and that you didn’t go immediately to the ER, call the personal injury attorneys at Morrison & Hughes for your free consultation.

With offices in Marietta and Alpharetta, we handle car and truck collisions ranging from fatalities and catastrophic injuries to MIST cases throughout Georgia, and the sooner you contact us after your collision the sooner we can ensure you receive proper medical treatment and your claim is handled in the manner to achieve the best results for you.  Give us a call at (404) 800-5297 or click to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys now.

[1]  Krafft, M., Kullgren, A., Malm, S. & Ydenius, A. (2005) “Influence of Crash Severity on Various Whiplash Injury Symptoms.”  Paper presented at the 19th International Technical Conference on Enhanced Safety of Vehicles, Washington, D.C. (2005) (summaring Hell and Langwider’s 1998 findings

[2]  Brault, J.R., Wheeler, J.B., Siegmund, G.P. & Brault, E.J. (1998) “Clinical Response of Human Subjects to Rear-End Automobile Collisions.”  Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 79(1), 72-80.

[3]  Farmer, C.M., Well, J.K., & Werner, J.V. (1999) “Relationship of Head Restraint Position to Driver Neck Injuries in Rear-End Crashes.”  Accident Analysis and Prevention, 31(6), 719-728.

[4]  Hijoka, A., Narusawa, K. & Nakamura, T. (2001) “Risk Factors for Long-Term Treatment of Whiplash in Japan: Analysis of 400 Cases.”  Archives of Orthopedic and Trauma Surgery, 121(9), 490-493.