The Truth About Low Speed Auto Accidents

Thousands of automobile collisions occur everyday. And every day thousands are injured. Researchers note that the majority of accident injury claims occur at relatively low speeds of about 12 mph.

This causes tremendous disputes between injured parties and the insurance companies that are responsible for compensating them fro their injuries. To insurers, there really is no speed at which they want to admit and injury could occur. For economic reasons they try to dismiss whiplash in its entirety as if it doesn’t exist.

Thanks to recent irrefutable research studies proving the existence and exact mechanism of whiplash injuries, insurers are hard pressed to try the “whiplash is a hoax” defense nearly as much as in the past.

A more recent tactic is to claim the speed of the collision is too low to cause injury. The defense often relies on their insured’s reports of how fast they were going when they ran into the back of the other party-obviously biased data. Other times photographs of the vehicle damage is used to show a low speed. Often, the photographs are shown to an Accident Reconstructionist who by merely looking at photographic damage renders an opinion on how fast the vehicles were traveling. They will even go so far to make statements such as “the evidence suggests there was insufficient force to cause human bodily injury…” This would be laughable if it didn’t cause so many problems for injured victims.

Here are but a few facts concerning motor vehicle injuries and their relationship to speed with supporting scientific evidence.

Three different studies (Panjabi, Panjabi and Cholewicki and Kaneoka) proved the mechanism by which the neck is injured by a rear impact force. [1], [2], [3] The studies involved simulating a rear impact collision ot live human test subjects and recording the results with cineradiography (high speed motion x-rays). The researchers found that the neck was injured by deforming into an “S- shaped” configuration. All three of these studies found that this physical event occurred at speeds as low as 2.5 mph.

The radiographically proven human threshold for injury in a rear impact collision therefore is 2.5 mph. Other authors have disputed these figures and some insurance company sponsored studies have found the threshold to be closer to 5 mph.

For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that the 5 mph threshold is correct. It still means that a collision of only 5 mph can cause damage to the neck.

Freeman et. al. in Spine, Vol. 23, Number 9, 1998, p. 1046 shows the damage thresholds for many cars. This is the minimum speed required to cause the car to show visible signs of damage. The smallest, lightest vehicle listed was the 1980 Toyota Tercel, which required a collision of 8.1 mph to become damaged. On the other end of the spectrum was the 1989 Chevrolet Citation, which required 12.7 mph. A Ford F-250 pick up required 11.7 mph.

Cars built today are equipped with rear bumpers designed not to show any damage below 5 mph. In an attempt to reduce repair costs shouldered by insurance companies, crash standards were adopted to mandate rear bumpers must withstand a 5 mph collision into a fixed barrier (wall, pole, etc) without any visible evidence of damage. It should be noted that this standard involves testing of “vehicle to barrier” crashes not “vehicle to vehicle” testing.

In “vehicle to vehicle” crashes where the bumpers line up well, it takes considerably more force to cause visible bumper damage than a 5 mph collision. Some tests have shown that cars could be crashed repeatedly at 20 mph and not show outer damage. In a “vehicle to vehicle” crash it is estimated that the minimum speed to cause visible damage is approximately 15 mph.

Another consideration is that while a bumper may look undamaged from the outside after a collision, inside under the skin, the foam or plastic may be crushed or cracked. This is not seen from the outside, so photographs would make it appear as if no damage was sustained. Still further, the bumper may appear intact, but on unibody vehicles, the unibody may be bent or deformed by a collision. This may not be apparent and some auto repair facilities may miss it.

So what does this mean? It means that if you are rear-ended and your bumper is cracked, dented, or misplaced at all, your collision involved speeds in excess of 15 mph. That’s 3 times the human threshold for injury if we use the 5 mph figure. In reality, the proven threshold is only 2.5 mph, so a collision of 15 mph is 6 times the threshold for injury.

Now let’s say your vehicle sustained no visible damage, but your neck hurts after the collision. Does that mean you weren’t really injured? No. It means that the vehicle’s threshold for damage was not exceeded. The impact could have been 10 mph. Too low for bumper damage, but still 4 times the threshold for human injury.

In a low speed collision, the kinetic forces that are transferred from the other vehicle into your vehicle are not dampened or bled off by your bumper. Instead, the force is transmitted through the vehicle, into your seat and to your neck resulting in injury. If your body or neck are jolted or jerked by the impact, an injury could occur.

Another aspect to consider is if your vehicle is moved forward by the impact. An average car weighs close to 4,000 lbs. Let’s say you are hit from behind and your car is pushed forward a few feet, but shows no signs of bumper damage. Is it possible to be hurt? Yes, of course. The force required to move a stationary 4,000 lb object is tremendous. Can you walk up to a car sitting at a red light with its brakes on and shove it forward even an inch? Not likely. A collision that is strong enough to propel a car forward by even inches is plenty enough force to cause a whiplash injury.

So, as you have now learned, there really shouldn’t be any dispute on whether a low speed collision can cause injuries. It has been scientifically proven by several studies. It is also a fact that the speed required to cause bodily injury is quite low, a scant 2.5 mph. It has also been shown that any accident that causes damage to the rear bumper is likely to cause injuries and even in accidents where there is no outward physical damage to the vehicle, there may still be sufficient forces involved to cause bodily injuries.


Panjabi MM, Grauer JN (1997): “Whiplash produces a S-shape curvature of the neck with hyperextension at lower levels. ” Spine 22 (21): 2489-94.

Panjabi MM, Cholewicki J, Nibu K, Grauer JN, Babat LB, Dvorak J, Bar HF (1998-12-01): “[Biomechanics of whiplash injury].” Orthopade 1998 Dec; 27(12): 813-9.

Koji Kaneoka, Koshiro Ono, Satoshi Inami and Koichiro Hayashi (99-04-15). “Motion analysis of cervical vertebrae during whiplash loading.” Spine 24(8): 763-770

Characteristics of Specific Automobile Bumpers in Low Velocity Impacts, SAE 940916

Accident Lawyers and Auto Accidents

Accident lawyers deal with a number of cases that stem from auto accidents to accidents on the job. Auto accident lawyers defend their clients rights and must know a plethora of laws that protect people, such as workmans compensation rights. Lawyers can work with insurance companies, to ensure claims are processed properly and to guarantee the victim gets all benefits they are owed.

Accident lawyers, specifically car lawyers, take care to provide the best service to the victim. Whether the person suffered from a dog bite or was struck in an auto accident, accident lawyers are on the side of the victim. Accidents occur every day and everywhere, and accident lawyers must be prepared to handle large caseloads. There are a number of people that get involved in accidents and do not seek the help of a lawyer, but it is probably best to do so in order to ensure all rights are given.

Claims for auto accidents can be hefty and lawyers can assist the victim in processing claims. They can work with the insurance companies to gather all information the victim would need to properly process the claim. Insurance companies have many policies that can be difficult for an accident victim to understand. If the victim has a lawyer, it can make the process easier, allowing for the victim to be at ease. Especially if the victim has been injured, the lawyer can work directly with the insurance company and relay all information to the victim.

Auto accidents in the winter are especially treacherous, with many people not taking their time to drive in the snow and/or ice. The numbers of accidents increase during this time of year and accident lawyers have to be alert and ready to take on a plethora of cases. Another type of accident that occurs in the winter is slip-and-fall accidents.

Car accidents account for a large number of injuries per year. An experienced auto lawyer will know exactly how to handle the claims and assist the victim as best as possible. It can be difficult for the lawyer to work with a client that has been severely injured, but they are take care to know how to properly work with their client and provide the best service. The lawyer will discuss in-depth with the client how long it will take to process the claim. Due to the number of clients lawyers have, they are experienced in knowing the length it will take for a victim to receive their benefits from the insurance company.

It is always best to take care, whether it is while driving, working, etc to avoid accidents. Processing an accident claim can be a draining experience, not to mention the recovery time it takes to heal if injured. But knowing that a lawyer would help in part of the process can allow the victim to rest and take care of him- or herself. Accident lawyers are there to help and make the process as easy as possible.

Medpay, Auto Accidents and Acupuncture

If you’re injured in an automobile accident and you’re not sure how to get the medical treatment you need, look no further than Medpay. If the accident is severe enough, obviously you will be taken to a hospital right away and given the appropriate tests and treatments. For continuing services and less severe accidents, rest assured that you are probably already covered on your car insurance policy under Medpay. This insurance can be used by you to receive any medical treatment recognized and accepted by the medical community, including acupuncture.

So, what is Medpay. It stands for medical payments coverage and if you have car insurance, chances are you have Medpay on the policy. After an accident report has been filed and you have a claim number with your insurance company, you can use your coverage immediately. The health care provider you select will call to verify your Medpay benefits and start treatments as soon as possible. Verification usually only takes a few minutes. The bills for treatment are sent directly to the insurance company, with no out of pocket expense to you.

Are there any limitations to the coverage? Depending on your insurance policy, you may have $5000, $10,000 or $15,000 worth of Medpay coverage on your policy. This is the cheapest health insurance available and most people don’t even know they have it. The cost on your policy is minimal and it’s worth your while to pay an extra couple of dollars to increase the value of coverage to $10,000 or $15,000 if it’s at the lower end. You can still get a lot of treatments for $5000, but considering how cheap it is, I highly recommend getting more coverage. Another limitation is time. Most auto policies give you just one year to use Medpay benefits after an accident. The last limitation is that it will not cover experimental treatments.

Acupuncture is an accepted form of treatment and is especially helpful in treating pain from automobile accidents. The gentle approach of acupuncture helps to treat pain and relax muscle spasms to reduce nerve impingement. In cases such as whip-lash, you’re probably going to get the option of pain-killers and muscle relaxants from the doctor. For those who can’t or don’t want to take medications, acupuncture is a perfect modality. Acupuncture treatments will stop muscles spasms allowing the spine to naturally move back in place. Three treatments a week for the first 2-3- weeks, 2 treatments a week for a couple of more weeks and usually the patient is completely recovered. Some patients ween down to one treatment a week, then come in twice a month before stopping treatments.

Check out your insurance policy today to make sure you have Medpay on your policy. In some states it’s required. Feel free to call your insurance agent and see what the price difference is to increase the amount of coverage. Finally, if you get in an accident and you need pain relief, choose acupuncture. It’s cost-effective, all natural and the bottom line is….it works.