But I Barely Bumped Him: Rear-end Collisions and Back Injuries

Many people are surprised to learn that even a low-speed collision can result in pain and injury under certain circumstances. This can be especially true in certain types of rear-end collisions. For the purposes of this article, low-speed is any speed between 2 mph and 25 mph. Moderate is 25 to 40, and high speed would be anything over 40 mph.

It has been suggested by some experts that as much as 85 percent of neck injuries that are seen in medical facilities are caused by auto crashes, and that of that number the vast majority are from rear-end collisions. What surprised many people is that many of these injuries are caused in collisions where the speed was reported between 5 and 10 mph. In addition to speed, other factors are important as well. These include:

  • Type of vehicles involved in the collision
  • Weight of vehicles
  • Difference in vehicle speeds
  • Impact direction
  • Impact location
  • Use of head restraint
  • Failure of seat
  • Angle of seat back
  • Height of seat back

Another interesting finding is that about 10 percent of the vehicle occupants (not just the driver) in rear-end collisions will report with whiplash  symptoms. Also, 10-15 percent of those who sustain cervical soft tissue injuries due to vehicle accidents will not be able to return to full recovery. In some cases, whiplash may take years to heal, and, in some cases, may never fully heal.

The reason for this is simple. In a rear-end collision, the occupants of the vehicle are exposed to a sudden and dramatic g-force acceleration. Even in an 8 mph collision, the g-force will equal 2 g’s on the vehicle and as much as 5 g’s on the occupant’s head, and this happens with 250 m/sec of vehicle impact. In other words, the person’s neck and head experience more g forces in low-speed rear-end collisions than the vehicle does! Studies are not showing that low speed collisions are actually more harmful to the cervical spine than high-speed collisions.

While whiplash is the broad term used for many of the injuries found in these types of accidents, the truth is there are a variety of injuries that can be caused by rear-end collisions. Nerve damage to various parts of neck and spine are common, ligament and muscle damage is also a very real possibility, and it should be noted that studies have shown that wearing a seat belt does not prevent rear-end collision injuries. Seat belts keep people from being thrown into windshields, but do little to prevent neck injuries due to hyper-extension. It is this hyper-extension that causes the majority of neck and spine damage in rear-end collisions.

All of this information is now being taken more seriously by doctors and insurance companies who in the past may have been skeptical about patient’s complaints of neck pain or injury. Anyone involved in a rear-end collision should also take seriously the potential for spinal damage and seek medical attention as soon as possible after the incident occurs. If need be, seek the assistance of a legal team to help protect your rights when you are harmed through no fault of your own.

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