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The Do’s and Don’ts of a Minor Car Accident

A blog post by a State Farm Employee has been making the rounds on a few lawyer listserves that I belong to. It is an entirely reasonable and well-written post titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of a Minor Car Accident.”

One point stated by the employee:

Don’t assume there aren’t injuries.
Do assess yourself and your passengers. Even low-impact collisions can cause injuries, some not appearing until days after the accident.

Again, entirely reasonable. We see this time and again–there really isn’t any rhyme or reason behind why some people are hurt in minor car accidents, while some people walk away completely unscathed by collisions that reduce automobiles to scrap metal. Well, that might be overstating it a little–there are actually a number of reasons, but there are too many variables to make it easy. Here are some of those variables:

  • Were you aware that you were going to be in an accident? Most of us tense up before an imminent collision, and people with that tension often have more severe injuries than people who were completely relaxed at the time of impact.
  • What was your body position? If you were sitting straight, looking forward when you were rear-ended, your injuries might be more minor than if your neck was craned to the side while you tended to your child in the back seat.
  • Is your car a newer model or an old clunker? New cars tend to be safer, largely because of federal regulations and lawsuits. These cars also tend to show less damage in many cases; however, the body inside the vehicle still gets thrown about, which is where injury can manifest.

And State Farm knows (because they have done the research), that serious injuries can result from minor collisions. Even soft-tissue injuries (a nefarious term, designed to conjure images of lying lawyers and malingering “victims”) like whiplash (see this CNN video) make sense when you think about it–even if there is no property damage and the car behind you impacted at 10 miles per hour, your body is thrust backward at the same time that your car moves forward at 10.466 feet per second. That’s really fast.

But at trial, the first thing the insurance lawyers tell the judge and jury is that “it was a minor impact with little or no damage to the car, and the plaintiff didn’t even go to the doctor for three days!” If I was on a jury, I’d have more respect for someone in a minor collision who tried to wait it out a few days or weeks after an accident, than one who went to the doctor right away. Sometimes these things do get better. But if you wait, the insurance companies (Allstate, for example, is no better) will be all over you at trial. Because they want juries to believe they are trying to game the system.

Sadly, this type of statement isn’t likely to make its way into the average Maryland auto accident lawsuit. Lawsuits are usually against people and corporations–the insurance companies pay for the defense and pay any loss, but they are not the ones on trial. So this admission is not usually going to be admissible.

We’ll have to be content with a “shame on you, State Farm, for talking out both sides of your mouth.”

If you’ve been injured in a low-impact automobile accident (and we mean it–you have to have actual injuries), contact us at 443.850.4426, or online. We’ll explain the process at our Timonium law office or at any other convenient location. If trial is in your best interests, we’ll get you your day in court.

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