Hergott: Degree of injury often understated

There are spring type devices in your bumper that jolt your vehicle forward. That’s how whiplash type injuries occur.

From time to time I ask readers for column ideas that relate to the “achieving justice” theme of this column.

While I could count the number of topic ideas I’ve received in the past with one hand, I hit a gold mine of an idea last month.

One of the specialists (“expert” in the legal context) I called as a witness to give opinions at a trial last month is familiar with my weekly writings.

He emailed me a list of topic ideas that would take all of my fingers as well as both thumbs to count.

It is quite the luxury for me. I get up at about 4:30 a.m. the morning of my column deadline so that I have the time to come up with and write about a topic.

Sometimes coming up with a topic takes longer than the writing itself.

But this week, with a bundle of potential topics in hand, I feel like I’ve got all the time in the world.

One of those suggested topics posed this question: “My ICBC adjuster said that my accident is a low velocity claim and that, therefore, I am not entitled to much compensation.  Is this true?”

It caught my eye and made my stomach churn at the same time. How many innocent victims of motor vehicle collisions have been told: “You shouldn’t be injured because there is less than $1,000 damage to your bumper?”

Such comments buy into the dangerous public perception, fed by the media, that we risk serious injuries only in those “fire and brimstone” type head-on crashes with casualties air lifted to the hospital.

The medical science says those public perceptions are a “load of crap” You might have difficulty finding those words in a medical journal, but there is not one honest member of the medical community who will disagree with me.

One error with that thinking is exposed when you understand that damage to the bumper does not correlate with the amount of force transferred to the vehicle occupant.

At lower speeds, in fact, there is a reverse correlation.

Bumpers are built not to crumple at lower speeds. Your bumper doesn’t crumple behind you, the crumpling metal absorbing most of the force when your vehicle is rear-ended at a low speed.

Instead, there are spring type devices in your bumper that will result in all of that energy jolting your vehicle forward. That’s how whiplash type injuries occur.

The insurance industry saves a bundle in bumper repair. They then deny injury claims telling injured victims: “Look, no damage to the bumper, you must be fine.”

Another error in thinking is assuming that all necks and backs will respond the same way to the same forces.

Yes, most people will escape a low velocity impact collision with injuries that completely resolve within a month or two, or even without any apparent injury at all.

The medical science, though, is that some people will be injured, and some will never recover.

How is this for equivalent bunk: “Most people can participate in extreme sports without being seriously injured or killed. Therefore your friend, laying seriously injured or dead over there, is not really seriously injured or dead.”

Your entitlement to compensation is not based on the speed of the vehicles nor the damage to the bumpers.

Your entitlement to compensation is based on what injuries you (not most people) actually suffer and the expenses, income loss and other life impacts arising from those injuries.

Any ICBC adjuster telling you different is trying to feed you a “load of crap.”

 

 

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