Low Speed Collisions

by Robert Shipp

If you have an accident claim and wish to seek compensation for personal injuries arising from a car accident you may find you come up against an insurance company attempting to argue that the speeds at which the vehicles were travelling were so low that it was scientifically impossible for a person in the car to suffer injury.

Insurance Companies have spent a fortune on court cases using expert engineers and medical experts to try and convince Judges that no compensation should be paid to someone who suffers personal injuries in a road traffic accident where the vehicles were travelling at low speeds.

They explain this normally by saying the force generated by the impact ( force equals the change in velocity in the vehicle struck called the "Delta V") was so weak that it could not cause any personal injury. However what they are basically saying is that you, the person claiming compensation for personal injury, are telling lies and this is a fraudulent claim.

It can be very difficult and expensive for Insurance Companies to prove but despite this they continue throw large sums of money at these cases hoping to set a precedent which will help them reject more personal injury compensation claims at an earlier stage.

This matter has been before the courts on several occasions and the Court of Appeal has set guidance on how these cases should be dealt with in the cases of Kearsley v Kalrfeld (2005) and more recently Casey v Cartwright (2006)

However before we can consider the advice given on these cases a helpful decision we should look at is the case of Armstrong v First York (2005). Here the driver, Mr Armstrong and the passenger Miss Connor were injured when their stationary car was struck on the side by a bus attempting to squeeze past.

The damage to their car was a shallow, 5 inch scrape to its nearside. The insurance company called an expert Forensic engineer to argue there could be no injury in view of the low impact speed and this was shown by the minimal damage.

Although the court could find no fault in what the expert engineer was saying, to accept his evidence would mean that they would have to believe that the two claimants, who were described as palpably honest witnesses, had come to court to deceive them in order to obtain a small amount of compensation. This the judge at the first hearing and the judges in the Court of Appeal did not believe and the claimants won their case.

Going back to the cases of Kearsley and Casey. Some interesting points were made by the Claimantís medical expert in Casey, such as it is well recognised that Whiplash disorder is a consequence of low speed impact and vehicle damage is not a good indicator of injury risk because modern cases are equipped with bumper systems that will often prevent damage to the car at speeds often above the so called threshold of harm.

In most respects the decision in Casey just expands upon the courtís views given in Kearsley. The Insurance Companyís solicitors will not have to spell out in detail any allegation of fraud just good reasons as to why they case would warrant further investigation. For example this could be that there was no damage to the vehicle.

In cases such as this, if the other side make this allegation within a reasonable time following the letter of claim, then the court will allow them to undertake a more rigorous investigation of the claim. They may allow an engineer to inspect the car and full access to your medical records.

In response your Solicitor may look into matters in a little more detail than normal. They could seek to instruct a more specialist medical expert who has experience of dealing with this issue. Also they may get statements from not only witnesses to the accident but also from those people who you spoke to, about your personal injury, following the accident.

It is clear from looking at the most relevant cases that a personís credibility is the most important issue in these types of cases. This means getting the basic facts right and staying consistent in what you say. Get these things wrong and you begin to make the Defendantís case for them.

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