Soft Tissue Injuries in Low Speed Motor Vehicle Collisions

Legal Compliance Resource
June 11, 2013 — 1,133 views  

There’s a lot of discussion on low speed collisions in the medico-legal community and the extent to which these collisions are responsible for causing soft tissue injuries. The debate is primarily between the victims and their advocates on one hand, and the insurance companies who can’t see the injury as formidable enough.

Common Symptoms of Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries are characterized by a set of symptoms which can be detected even without biomechanical analysis. These include sore neck and back muscles, headaches, as well as neck pain. The victim may suffer from vertigo, auditory and visual disturbances, nausea, dizziness, as well as confusion. 

Other than these symptoms, the victim may also suffer from tingling sensation or numbness in the fingers, hands, wrist, and arm. There is also the likelihood of mild to low back pain and pain anywhere in jaw, elbow, knee, and shoulder. In other words, pain or dysfunction can develop from low speed collisions without attendant injury.

Injury Producing Forces in Low Speed Motor Collision

Low speed collisions refer to collisions between the speeds of as less as 1or 2 miles per hour and as high as 20 to 25 miles per hour. According to research evidence, the rear end collision of 8 mph can generate a force of 5 g acceleration on the occupant’s head and only 2 g force on the vehicle impacted. The impact is more on the head and neck, causing more pain and injury than damage to the vehicle.

It may be wrong to assume that neck injuries occur only in high speed collisions. In fact, it is low speed collisions or even moderate collisions that cause cervical spine hyperextension. Collisions at a high speed, on the other hand, break the seat minimizing the hyperextension force. In other words, high speed collisions impact the vehicles before they impact the occupants, while low speed collisions impact the occupants directly.

Evidently then, low speed collisions need to be studied by the legal fraternity and the insurance companies in the light of new scientific evidences, now proven and established beyond doubt. It is not necessary that low speed collisions, unlike the high speed ones, will invariably show marks of external injuries. Yet, it does not mean that damage in some form has not taken place.

Prevention Tips

While whiplash injuries are common in low speed collision, such injuries are also preventable. Whiplash can be injurious to the soft tissues in the back and neck. The right approach to prevent such injuries is to use head restraints properly.

The best strategy to prevent whiplash injuries is to use or purchase only such cars that have head restraint rated high. Before you begin driving any car for the first time, it is advised that you adjust the head restraint properly. Several researches have conclusively proved that head restraints along with properly adjusted seats and seat belts can protect you against low speed collisions and rear end collisions, while serious neck injuries can be reduced by 35 percent. 

Biomechanical analysis has proved that low speed collisions can cause whiplash injuries. While it is still a contentious issue between medico-legal communities and the insurance companies, evidences have increasingly suggested that collisions at low speed may not damage the vehicle but can severely impair the driver, even if their injuries are not visible.

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