"It was just a fender-bender"
"There were only scratches on the car"
"I was only hit at 5 mph"
These are some of the thoughts typical in a low speed crash. However, we all know of folks who aren't involved in any type of crash, or who have any external forces exerted on their body, who have pain. Ever wake up with a stiff neck? Ever do some yardwork and, the next day, you are stiff as a board? No one hit you at all and, yet, you are in pain. How can this be?
Low-speed motor vehicle crashes, particularly rear-end collisions, produce a different mechanism of injury than do high-speed crashes. The widely differing injury mechanisms for low-speed crashes versus higher-speed crashes make comparisons virtually impossible. It is a fact that some people are injured in low-speed motor vehicle crashes involving minimal or no property damage. One of the largest studies ever conducted of insurance claims for injury following motor vehicle crashes showed that 18 percent and 23 percent of women involved in motor vehicle crash with $500 or less of damage were injured.[i] Other authors have demonstrated cervical disc injuries with radiculopathy in 7 mile-per-hour and less motor vehicle crashes (minimal- to no-damage crashes) in a cohort of 237 real-world crash-injured subjects.[ii]
i. Farmer CM, Wells JK, Werner JV. The relationship of head restraint position to driver neck injury in rear-end crashes. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 1998.
ii. Tencer AF, Mirza SK. Is there a relationship between pre-existing spinal degeneration and whiplash associated symptoms in victims of rear-end auto impacts? Cervical Spine Research Society 27th Annual Meeting - December 16-18, 1999