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Low-speed accidents in Texas, elsewhere not necessarily minor

It is a basic principle in Newtonian physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Surprisingly, some individuals, both in Austin and elsewhere, seem unconvinced of that principle’s veracity; how else to explain their consistent skepticism concerning low-impact accident injuries?

High-impact car accidents are known dangers: We’re all aware of their propensity to cause serious injury and even loss of life. However, that same awareness leads many to dismiss the dangers of low-impact accidents. Yet, fundamental laws of physics apply whenever an object with mass is accelerated. If that object is a vehicle striking another, its force will transfer to those occupants being impacted regardless of the speedometer’s reading.

What is a low-speed impact?
The Texas Department of Transportation reports that one person was injured in a Texas accident every 2.5 seconds in 2011. That same year, there was at least one “reportable crash” every 83 seconds. Consider the phrase “reportable crash,” which implies that some percentage of these 83 second interval accidents is not reported. Perhaps because those involved felt they were not “reportable” because they were low-speed accidents.

In general, low-speed car accidents are those that take place at less than 10 mph. They often involve very little property damage, but this gives rise to the misconception that the same is true of the vehicle’s occupants. As it happens, such an accident can actually have a considerable impact on the individuals involved even if the vehicles emerge relatively unscathed.

How does a low-speed impact cause injury?
Low-impact injuries most often result from rear-end collisions. In a rear-end collision, the impacted vehicle’s occupants accelerate much faster than the vehicle itself. That acceleration multiplies by the mass of the impacting vehicle to generate a force on the occupants’ ligatures. The International Spine & Pain Institute reports that even slow speeds can cause significant trauma on unprepared soft tissue: as much as 4.5G in impacts occurring at 4 to 5 mph.

Several factors influence the severity of a low-speed impact injury:

  • Whether the occupant prepares for the imminent collision or not
  • The position of the headrest: Neck injuries worsen if the headrest is improperly adjusted
  • If the site was reclined, or if the occupant had poor posture at impact
  • Whether the occupant had his or her head tilted to the side

Unfortunately, most of this is poorly understood in everyday knowledge. Insurance companies often dismiss a client’s meritorious low-speed accident injury claim because photographs show little to no vehicular damage, and a common question posed may be, “How can such a small collision cause injury?” This unjustly burdens victims with pain and medical expenses. If one’s claim is met with such a response, an attorney experienced in low-speed accidents who can argue for a claim’s validity may be an invaluable resource.