Everything You Need to Know About Low-Speed Car Accidents

low-speed car accident

Insurance adjusters tend to downplay the impact of low-speed motor vehicle accidents, especially if their driver is at fault. After a fender-bender, you might be tempted to brush off any pain or discomfort. However, car wrecks involving slow-moving vehicles can result in serious head, neck, and back injuries. 

Unfortunately, many insurance companies will deny accident claims if there is minimal property damage, leaving injured victims to pay auto repairs and medical bills out of pocket. Personal injury cases in which trauma and other damages are not immediately obvious can be more challenging, but they are no less important that other types of cases. 

After all, if you are living with pain and disability from an accident that was not your fault, you deserve justice. 

What is Considered a Low-Speed Car Accident

A low-speed car accident typically involves vehicles moving less than 10 miles per hour. Some common low-speed crash scenarios include:

  • A driver rear-ending a vehicle stopped at an intersection 
  • A parked car backs out of a post and crashes into a vehicle behind them
  • A vehicle rear-ending a car that has stopped to let pedestrians cross 

Without any scrapes or dents on the car, it is tempting to assume all is well and brush off a minor accident. However, hidden damage to the vehicle’s alignment or frame is quite common, even when impact happens at a low speed. The same is true for the human occupant. Not all injuries are immediately obvious. 

It is common for occupants involved in these types of fender-benders to feel okay at the scene but notice pain, soreness, and stiffness hours or days later. Sometimes the initial rush of adrenaline masks the pain. Other conditions called delayed onset injuries develop or worsen over time. 

Common Types of Injuries Suffered in Low-Speed Collisions

It is clear that injuries are possible, even in accidents with vehicles traveling at low speeds. It is good to explore some of the most common symptoms and conditions that result from these types of car wrecks. 

Soft tissue injuries

Soft tissue injuries typically fall into two categories: acute injuries and overuse injuries. This discussion looks at acute injuries in the context of motor vehicle accidents. 

Acute injuries are caused by trauma to the body, such as a blow to the body, a twist, or a fall. This abrupt force can cause damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout the body. 

Common soft tissue injuries occurring in low-speed car accidents include the following: 

  • Contusions: Contusion is another name for a bruise. Bruises happen when a direct blow or multiple blows strike the body, crushing the underlying connective tissue and muscle fibers without breaking the skin. 
  • Sprains: A sprain is an overstretching or tearing of the connective tissue or ligaments that connect one bone to another. Ankle, knee, and wrist joints are particularly susceptible to strains. Sprains are classified by their severity. More serious sprains may require surgical repair. 
  • Strains: Strains are injuries to the muscle and/or the tendons that connect the muscle to bone. Like sprains, strains can involve overstretching or tearing of the tissue. The RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol is typically recommended for minor strains, whereas more complex injuries may require surgery. 
  • Whiplash: Whiplash is one of the most common, and painful, soft tissue injuries people suffer in low-speed car accidents. Sometimes called neck strain or a neck sprain, whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck. It is caused by the head suddenly being forced back and forth. Imagine a vehicle stopped at an intersection, waiting for a red light to turn green. The driver in the car behind them is not paying attention. Even if they are not moving at a high speed, if they crash into the stopped car, the occupants inside are going to get quite a jolt. That seemingly minor impact can leave those with whiplash in significant pain and discomfort for weeks or months to follow. Other symptoms of whiplash include headaches, neck stiffness, shoulder and back pain, memory loss, and trouble concentrating and/or sleeping.

Traumatic brain injuries

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are generally caused by a forceful jolt or impact to the head or body, which is common in car accidents, even at low-speeds. Second only to falls, car accidents are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in the United States. When a passenger’s head makes contact with the steering wheel, the dashboard, a window, or even another person, the brain can shift inside the skull and suffer bleeding and/or tissue damage. 

Like soft tissue injuries, TBIs are classified in terms of severity: 

  • Concussion or mild TBI. Common signs of this relatively mild and temporary condition include headaches, sensitivity to light and/or sound, balance issues, difficulty concentrating, and sleep problems. Multiple concussions can make you susceptible to more serious health problems. 
  • Moderate TBI and post-concussion syndrome. If concussion symptoms last for more than several months up to a year, you may have post-concussion syndrome. Some people develop anxiety or depression as a result of persistent symptoms that impact their quality of life. 
  • Severe TBI. A severe TBI can include serious brain damage caused by impact with the skull. Although it is rare with low-speed car accidents, some TBIs occur when a foreign object pierces the skull and brain tissue. 

What Is a MIST?

Low-speed car accident injuries are so common that the legal community has a name for them: minor-impact, soft-tissue (MIST) injuries. Insurance companies like to dismiss MIST injuries, but research shows they are real. 

In fact, one study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that crash tests indicate that a change of vehicle velocity of 4 km/h, or 2.5 mph, may produce occupant symptoms. Vehicle damage may not occur until 14 to 15 km/h, or 8.7 mph. 

Therefore, you should always take pain and other symptoms seriously after any type of car accident. 

Buckle Up to Prevent Serious Injuries

It is clear that even at low-speeds, car accident injuries are possible.  You might be wondering how to avoid a sprain or strain if you are in a fender-bender. 

If you wear your seat belt, you are already taking the quickest and easiest step to minimize car accident injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that of all passengers killed in car accidents across the nation, 53 percent are unrestrained. 

Among drivers and front seat passengers, seat belts are shown to cut the risk of death by 45 percent and reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 percent. In a single year, seat belts saved nearly 13,000 lives in the United States. 

You cannot predict if you will be involved in a car accident, but you can do something to decrease the chance of getting hurt. Make a promise to yourself to buckle up every time you get in the car. 

What Should I Do if I Am Having Pain after a Fender-Bender?

If you are experiencing pain, stiffness, and other physical or cognitive issues after a recent car wreck, you should see a doctor. Although it is tempting to dismiss these symptoms, they can indicate a serious internal injury. 

Once you have received medical attention, your next call should be to an experienced car wreck lawyer. Compensation for your hospital bills, medications, tests, and other medical bills may be available. 

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect Your Rights after a Car Accident 

Any car accident is an inconvenience. But when you are injured as a result of another driver’s negligence, a minor fender-bender becomes much more than a hassle. The Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are here to help. We will be your advocate to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.