A few years ago, CNN published a report of its 18-month investigation into how insurance companies respond to claims of soft-tissue injuries arising from “minor-impact” car crashes. CNN reviewed more than 6,000 documents and court records. In addition, it interviewed dozens of people nationwide, including former insurance claims adjusters and accident victims.
A “minor-impact” car crash is one where there is very limited visible damage to the vehicle. The insurance companies employ the strategy of arguing that when there is little or no visible damage to the vehicle, a driver or passenger could not have been hurt. They go so far to say that if you are hurt, that it could only be a very minor injury. According to CNN’s interview with an insurance law professor, this “minor-impact, no injury” approach resulted in “billions in profits for insurance companies and little, if anything, for the public.”
Not surprisingly, these strategies are still paying off as claims adjusters continue to argue that minor visible damage equates to little or no injury. These baseless theories pervade the insurance industry despite the lack of substantive scientific evidence. This line of “thinking” fails to give any credence to the countless individuals who are injured, many severely, in what the insurance companies deem a “minor-impact.”
Soft Tissue Injuries: What Are They and How They Occur
Soft tissue injuries are injuries to muscles, tendons and ligaments that connect the bones. Such injuries are often difficult to assess because there may be no objective medical diagnostic tests to “show” the injury – yet the pain is still ever present. Proof of these injuries may depend on the medical examination reports and subjective symptoms presented by the injured person.
The most common soft tissue injury caused by a “minor-impact” car accident is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the head and neck are suddenly whipped back and forth. According to the Mayo clinic, rear-end collisions are the most common cause of this type of head and neck injury. Some victims recover within a few months. Others experience life-long complications and chronic neck pain.
Other common soft tissue injuries that occur in “minor-impact” car accidents include low-back pain, bruises, chest and rib injuries. Occupants are surprised by the jolt of the impact and are unable to brace themselves against the seat or the headrest.
But not all “minor-impacts” lead to soft tissue injuries. Many of these crashes, lead to disc herniations, torn ligaments and even spinal fusions. In a recent study published by Dr. Martin Elbel, it was determined that it is impossible to make meaningful statements relating injury to the amount of force exerted in a motor vehicle collision. Dr. Elbel concluded by stating: “Diagnostic and therapeutic management should not be based solely on information related to trauma impact.”
If you were injured in a “minor-impact”, you need the assistance of an aggressive personal injury attorney who knows how to fight against the insurance company’s flawed arguments.
The Three Ds: Deny, Delay and Defend
The CNN report discovered three strategies used by insurance companies in the effort to deny claims of those injured in “minor-impact” car crashes:
- Deny: Deny that such a minor accident could have caused the serious injuries claimed by the victim.
- Delay settlement: Postpone, postpone, and postpone again paying a settlement to the victims. Eventually, victims will need compensation for medical bills and lost wages so desperately, they will likely to accept an incredibly low offer.
- Defend: If the victim is still fighting, and has hired an attorney willing to go to trial, the insurer puts on “the boxing gloves” and fights. Photos of the slightly damaged car will be presented to a jury showing how “ludicrous” it is to think that such major injuries could occur from such minor damage to the vehicle. This sometimes works.
A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to prove that the onset of injury was caused by the car crash, despite the lack of extensive visible damage. An accident reconstructionist may be called upon as an expert witness to show how the body moves and is jostled even when the perception is low based upon the visual damage.
It also may be that, even though the photos of the vehicle show very little damage on the outside, the impact caused other unseen damage. Many times, the bumper mounts or absorbers are damaged inside the bumper. This is direct evidence that the impact was much greater than it appeared when just analyzing the visible damage. Additionally, evidence that the bumpers slid over or under one another is another good indication that the force of impact was much greater than it appeared, based on the visible damage.
Have you been in a “minor-impact” car crash and suffered an injury? Contact Georgia Trial Attorneys. We offer a free consultation. We will review the facts and circumstances of your case and help you decide how to obtain the best possible recovery.