My car doesn’t have a lot of damage, so why does my neck hurt so much? Car Accident Injury?  The car accident was unexpected – after all, it was just a short trip to the grocery store when the vehicle was struck in the parking lot. Not a lot of damage, just some paint scratches. Sure there was a jolt, but the car took the brunt of it. Or did it?  Later, the next morning, you feel stiffness and loss of range of motion turning to the right.  How could this be?

There are many factors which contribute low impact injuries. The first reason for this is one of science.

The truth is, that low impact collisions can cause significantly painful car accident injury to the neck and back despite the lack of damage to the automobile.  The laws of physics address issues of mass, motion and energy. Without getting into Einstein-like analysis, consider this: A car is a “mass” which is something solid, weighing up to several tons.  Therefore, to move it takes energy.  As Isaac Newton’s first law states, “an object in motion will stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

When a car collides with another car, that energy, called kinetic energy, is transferred to the vehicle it strikes.  Then, the occupants of that vehicle absorb the kinetic energy.  Cars are designed to bend, but not break.  Therefore, the inside of the car absorbs the kinetic energy rather than the exterior.  Automobile makers, in an effort to limit property damage, build cars that are designed to absorb the kinetic energy to minimize property damage.

Cars are designed to have the exterior absorb the impact during a car accident, which is called the crumple zone.

Race cars are a good example. When in impacts, the exteriors have a “give” which crumples, which absorbs the impact. Bumpers, however are not designed to crumple, but to have “give,” rather than crumple, as bumper repairs are expensive. As a result, low speed impacts don’t cause a lot of property damage.

Good for your insurance company, but bad for you.  The interior of the car absorbs the transfer of that kinetic energy pushing the car and its occupants around.  Did you ever ride in bumper cars as a child? When car A strikes car B, the rubber on the vehicle absorbs the impact with no damage to the car.  You, the occupant, feels the jolt though. Now, take that same principal and multiply it 50 times.

Perhaps pictures will help illustrate the point. Watch as the crash test dummies get jolted forward and imagine the strain on the upper back and neck if this energy were to push the car forward unexpectedly.

Now, consider factors such as the angle of the spine at the time of impact.

The neck is designed to easily move from left to right (rotation) and up and down (flexion and extension).  However, if your head is at an angle when the vehicle is pushed forward unexpectedly, this can cause greater injury.  The ligaments are stretched in a way they were not designed to be moved.  So, if you were changing your radio station, looking to the light at the side of the intersection, or talking to the person in the car with you, you may have created a spine angle which contributes to your car accident injury.

Moreover, other factors can also contribute to the extent of your car accident injury.

 These include age, weight, and prior injuries.  In addition, the head is very heavy compared to the neck.  Once it is thrust toward the hitting vehicle, the result is an injury referred to as a soft tissue injury versus a broken bone or joint injury.   When this occurs, the muscles stretch and react with a violent spasm in the opposite direction. The painful result is injury to the muscles, ligaments, nerves, and on occasion, broken bones.

At the Dawson Law Firm, we are experienced in making a jury understand why a car accident with minimal property damage can be the cause of significant neck and back injuries. If you’ve been injured, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer with trial experience in order to maximize your recovery. Call us and let us help you with your claim.  Schedule your free consultation, today!