What Constitutes a Minor Impact Collision?
November 15th, 2017
The phrase “minor impact collision” is a phrase used by liability insurance adjusters to describe an automobile accident where the visible property damage to the vehicle is such that it either cannot be seen by the naked eye or appears to be indicative of a low velocity collision. Any collision in which the physical damage to the vehicles makes the collision visibly appear like nothing more than a fender bender is considered a minor impact collision.
Can People Be Injured in a Minor Impact Collision?
Yes. There is absolutely no correlation between the amount of the property damage to the vehicles and the existence or degree of injury to the vehicle occupants. Everyone has heard stories of car accidents where a person died in what seemed like a minor impact collision as well as cases where the vehicle were crushed and the occupants walked away without a scratch. Whether or not a person is injured in a car accident is determined by numerous factors that may include:
- Age of the occupant
- Angle of the impact
- Whether a seatbelt was worn
- Physical condition of the occupant
- Sex of the occupant
- Height and/or weight of the occupant
- Pre-existing medical conditions of the occupant
- Velocity of the impact
- Location of occupant in the vehicle
At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. we have made successful recoveries in minor impact cases where there was less than $500 in damage to the vehicle but the occupant suffered:
- A detached retina
- A brain bleed
- A cervical fusion
- An aggravated pre-existing condition in the spine
- An injury to the tempomandibular joint (TMJ)
Why Won’t a Lawyer Take My Case?
Finding an attorney who will take on a minor impact collision case can often be difficult, particularly if you have an injury that is not visible and readily explained by the facts such as a whiplash injury. No one else can see your whiplash injury. There is no objective test for it. Insurance companies refer to these types of claims as MIST claims or minor impact soft tissue claims. Often there are other factors at play that may affect why a lawyer will not take your case. Keep in mind that just some lawyers will not take it does not mean that there are not others who will.
Minor Impact Claims and Juries
Insurance companies know that juries are skeptical of plaintiffs claiming injuries that cannot be seen or objectively verified. Jurors have a tendency to associate the lack of visible property damage with no injury despite the research and proof that the two do not correlate. Thus, when there is low property damage and no visible injury, a defense lawyer often has a higher chance of successfully arguing to a jury that the vehicle occupants simply “could not have been hurt by such a little fender bender.” While the argument may not be scientifically true, all a defense lawyer must do is convince three of the twelve jurors to believe it and the defense wins.
As a result of the success of the use of low property damage as a defense, insurance companies tend to push Minor impact soft tissue files to trial. To have a chance to win, plaintiff’s lawyers often will have to spend the money to bring expert testimony to try to convince the jury that the plaintiff really is injured in these kinds of cases. This kind of expert testimony can be very costly and does not guarantee a win. Since most plaintiff’s personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis—meaning they front the expenses and only recover those and get paid a fee if they win—personal injury attorneys tend to be very selective about taking on cases we know are likely to go to trial.
Minor Impact Claims We May Accept
We evaluate every case that comes to us on its own merit. The reality is that not every case is financially feasible to pursue. However, whether or not an attorney will take your case and assume the risks involved must be determined on a case-by-case basis by the individual attorney. Generally, we are more likely to accept a minor impact case if there is a visible injury, a serious bodily injury such as broken bones or internal damage from a seat belt injury, an elderly occupant or something that otherwise enables us to establish a clear connection between a low velocity collision and an injury directly produced therefrom.
Free Case Evaluation
If you have been injured in an accident and have been either unable to find representation or unable to get the insurance company to take your case seriously, call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., for a free case evaluation. If we agree to investigate and/or handle your case, we work on a contingency fee basis so that there is no cost to you up front and no fees or expenses charged by us to you unless we make a recovery. Call us at 800-298-0111 today.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.