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Low Speed Impacts: a Problem Area

When injuries occur because of high-speed impacts between cars, once the ‘liability’ issue (who was responsible for the accident) is sorted out, the argument normally becomes one about money. With low-speed impacts (typically under 5 mph), however, it is quite common for there not to be an argument about liability. In these cases, the person responsible for the accident will often accept that they caused it, but will argue that the accident occurred at such a low speed that the symptoms alleged by the claimant are either non-existent, exaggerated or not the result of the accident. The argument here is based on the premise that the accident happened at too low a speed to produce the injuries claimed.

The problem is that there are two schools of thought on low-speed accidents, with some forensic experts being of the view that accidents involving very light damage to the car could not have produced a sufficient impact to cause injury. The other school of thought is that low-speed accidents can indeed cause injuries such as whiplash. The argument here is that while the vehicle, which is a rigid structure, may suffer little damage, the sudden deceleration means that a considerable momentum is built up in the bodies of the passengers, which are not coupled to the car. The energy in the crash therefore passes to the bodies of the passengers, with little decrease in force. Accordingly, the passengers also decelerate rapidly, but regrettably are neither rigid structures nor have built-in crumple zones. Whiplash is a common injury in such cases and has the added disadvantage that the symptoms sometimes only appear some considerable time after the accident.

The effect this has in litigation regarding such accidents is that the defendants often take a strong stance regarding the claims, which not only complicates the legal process but can also increase greatly both the time it takes to reach a settlement and the potential costs if the claim fails.

If you are suffering from an injury caused by a low-speed accident, it is crucial to have expert legal representation.