Can low-impact collisions cause high-impact injuries?

Every year, there are about 6 million car accidents in the United States. The majority of these crashes are what people think of as “minor” or “fender bender” accidents, characterized by low impact speed and minor property damage. In some cases, there may be no visible damage to the car at all. However, even a minor crash can result in a serious injury. Your body is far more vulnerable than your car, and forces that can’t dent metal can still have a terrible effect on tissue and muscle. There are a number of factors that can contribute to high-impact injuries in low-impact collisions.

Every year, there are about 6 million car accidents in the United States. Even a minor crash can result in a serious injury.

Every year, there are about 6 million car accidents in the United States. Even a minor crash can result in a serious injury.

Hidden Damage

Not all cars are created equal. In recent years, advances in car safety and design have helped people avoid injuries. New cars achieve this by actually increasing the amount of property damage, utilizing crumple zones designed to buckle under the force of a crash. This distributes the force of the collision into the car and prevents it from being passed on to the occupants. Older cars don’t have these zones, meaning that less of the accident force is absorbed by the car and more is passed on to the passengers. So, less property damage can actually result in greater injury.

The amount of property damage caused by a collision is also heavily dependant on the type of vehicles involved. If a sedan rear-ends an SUV, the bumpers will be at different heights. Much of the crash’s force will strike either on the top of the sedan’s hood or on the undercarriage of the SUV. This results in far less visible property damage, but does not change the actual amount of force generated by the collision or experienced by the occupants of the cars.

Delayed Pain

You and your passengers may feel fine after a minor car accident, but it is always a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. Typical car accident injuries, such as whiplash or strained muscles, can take some time to present. Many car accident victims initially go home, only to change their minds and seek medical treatment as their symptoms worsen.

In addition, your injuries may be initially covered up by the flow of adrenaline. A car crash is a traumatic, startling event, and our bodies try to protect us and help us survive by dumping adrenaline into the bloodstream. This helps us ignore pain and deal with immediate danger, but can also cause us to overlook or dismiss serious injuries that require medical attention.

Pre-Existing Conditions

You may have a preexisting condition, such as a tiny disc bulge or some degeneration in the spine, that makes you more vulnerable to injury. Such a vulnerability, even one that is unknown to you or doesn’t cause you pain, can be pushed over the edge into a serious medical problem by a sharp jolt from a car accident.

“Minor” Injuries

Specific types of serious injuries can result from minor impacts. For example, a fender bender could cause a vehicle occupant’s head to hit the headrest, causing a concussion. Even a single concussion can have a major effect on your brain. We are just beginning to understand the long-term damage associated with even minor head trauma.

It can be very difficult to deal with an insurance company after a minor accident. Many companies will take the position that a low-speed, low-impact crash cannot possibly result in serious injuries. If you’ve been injured in a crash, you need to take action to protect your rights. Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen can help.