This is an area where the propaganda machine financed by the insurance industry has really hurt injured victims. Insurance companies have claimed that a collision which only caused minor damage to the vehicles could only have caused minor damage to the body. This is false! There are many factors that determine whether a person suffers injury in a collision. These factors include whether a person was expecting the collision, whether the person was fragile or frail, the weight of the cars involved, and how the energy from the collision was disbursed/absorbed. Sometimes, the vehicles are totaled, but the passengers are unhurt. Other times, the vehicles only suffer minor damage, but the occupants suffer major spine or head injuries. You simply cannot make a medical diagnosis from looking at the vehicles.
The following video shows collisions at walking speed (less than 4-mph) and again at 6-mph.
As you can see from the video, it is remarkable how much trauma the body can experience from a 6-mph rear end collision. This is not to say that everyone is injured in a low-impact car crash – many people are not. However, given the forces on the body, significant injuries certainly do happen in collisions that cause little or no damage to the vehicles.
The problem is not the science; the problem is that insurance companies, and to some extent juries, factor the amount of vehicle damage when determining the degree of injury to the body. If the car is really banged up, then they are more inclined to believe that the occupants were also banged up. If the car only has minor damage, then they usually assume that the injuries were also minor. Simply put, if your car suffered only minor damage in a crash, then your injury claim will be valued less by the insurance company.
At the Packard Law Firm, we have worked hard to debunk the “minor vehicle damage/minor injury” theory. We work with reputable engineering professors who can explain the forces involved and can demonstrate how wrong it is to try to make a medical diagnosis by looking at a bumper. However, these expert witnesses are expensive, and they only get involved if the case goes to litigation. So, if you have a smaller case, it usually does not make sense to hire an expert in mechanical engineering. Even with an expert witness, some adjusters simply refuse to offer fair value for a claim if there is minor damage to the vehicles.
The bottom line is this – major damage to the vehicle will increase the value of your case and minor damage will decrease its value.