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Sustaining injuries in a car accident can be one of the most frightening and frustrating moments in your life, but when it comes to low-speed car accidents, the pain of your injuries may pale in comparison to the headache of proving your case and obtaining the compensation you’re entitled to.

That’s because insurance companies debate the validity of low-speed car accident claims, making them highly controversial. However, as Minnesota car accident attorneys with over 50 years of experience in civil litigation, we’ve seen it all and can tell you that, often, the injuries sustained in low-speed accidents can be just as debilitating as those sustained in other types of crashes. That’s why we put together this primer, should you find yourself the victim of a low-speed collision.

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What are low-speed car accidents?

A low-speed car accident is generally considered to be one involving vehicles traveling 10 miles per hour or less. An example of a typical low-speed car accident is a rear-end collision with a vehicle that is stopped at an intersection.

We’ve all seen a movie or TV show with a devious character faking a neck or back injury — hobbling around in a brace, groaning over the slightest movement. Although there are people out there abusing the system in real life too, fraud is not nearly as prolific as some insurance companies would like us to believe.
When it comes to low-speed car accidents, insurance companies often try to draw a correlation between miles per hour, the amount of visible damage to your vehicle, and the severity of your injuries. In other words, if the car looks undamaged, than you must be undamaged too.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The following statements put forth by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) at the 2005 National Forum on Speeding, shed some light on the matter:
The relationship between vehicle speed and crash severity is unequivocal and based on the laws of physics.
Velocity change in a crash is a critical measure of crash severity.
The likelihood of being injured, and injury severity in a crash, depends on the change in speed at impact.

The relationship between vehicle speed and crash severity is unequivocal and based on the laws of physics.
Velocity change in a crash is a critical measure of crash severity.
The likelihood of being injured, and injury severity in a crash, depends on the change in speed at impact.
Low-speed car accidents can cause injuries to the neck, shoulder, back, chest, and head. The most common injury associated with low-speed collisions (particularly rear-ends) is whiplash. For those of you fortunate enough to never have experienced it, whiplash is caused by the sudden jerking back and forth of the head resulting in the tearing of muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments in the neck.
Technology Associates, “experts in engineering, biomechanics, and accident reconstruction,” describe whiplash like this:
“A stopped car is struck by another vehicle from behind; the struck car and torsos of its passengers are thrown forward. However, the heads of the passengers lag behind for a fraction of a second, causing their necks to be hyper-extended (unduly strained as the torso flies forward while the head stays behind). As their torsos rebound against the seat backs, their heads now move forward, but are snapped back again, by their necks, and overshoot the torso, again causing the neck to be hyper-extended. This effect is most severe if the headrests are too low and set too far back, as they are in many cars. The whole occurrence takes less than a second.”
Though the injury may seem minor at first, symptoms can take 24 hours or longer to manifest. These symptoms include:

Neck stiffness and pain
Low back and shoulder pain
Lack of concentration
Memory problems
Trouble sleeping
Reduced range of motion

What to do if you’re involved in a low-speed accident

For the most part, there isn’t a lot you can do to avoid these types of accidents – they happen abruptly, out of the blue, catching most people off guard, or if they see it coming it’s too late to get out of the way. Here’s what to do if you are in one of these accidents:
Come to a complete stop, parking on the side of the road if you can.
If someone is injured call 911 for emergency assistance immediately. Unless it’s unavoidable, don’t move the injured person(s)—doing so could worsen their injuries.
Call the police. Note: according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), in Minnesota you are only required to contact the police if someone is injured. If only property is damaged, you are not obligated to call them.
Provide the appropriate information (name, date of birth, address and vehicle registration) to the other drivers involved in the crash, the police and the owners of any other property that was damaged as a result of the crash. Be sure to get the other parties information for your records including the officer’s name and the incident or report number. By law, you must comply with anyone who asks to see your driver’s license, or asks you for your insurance information.
Take pictures. Having photos of the accident on site could help later in the courtroom.

Seek treatment immediately – the sooner you receive evaluation and treatment of your injuries the better for you, in terms of long-term or chronic pain development. It’s also important to have your physician document your injuries in a medical record as soon as possible to help protect your legal rights.

Contact an Attorney – like the experienced personal injury attorneys at Meshbesher & Spence. Call us (888-728-9866) for a FREE consultation. Our attorneys are available to visit you in the hospital or in your home as well as in our offices, and will help you determine if you will be able to recover damages for your injuries.
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