Does Property Damage Equal Occupant Injury?

Hi, I’m Marcus Michles, and welcome to this week’s edition of our video blog here at Michles & Booth, where you can find us at if you want to see some the prior subjects we’ve talked about.

You know this week is, in a lot of ways, like a lot of other weeks in my business. I talk to people that have been in car accidents all day long, and it’s interesting because I’m…sometimes I say the same things, and I teach the same things over and over to folks, but last week was little different in that my wife was in a car accident, and some of you have expressed your concern, and I appreciate that. She’s fine, relatively speaking of course, but it wasn’t that serious. It was a minor fender bender kind of an accident where she was sitting at a stoplight. A lady wasn’t paying attention. I think she was on her phone, and she rear-ended my wife.

Personal Injury In A Car Accident

The story though gets a little interesting, and it serves as a great reminder to me how misconceptions of the victim influence the case. There wasn’t much property damage to my wife’s car and she drives a SUV, and it’s made pretty well, and she looked at the car, and she felt like well, she really didn’t hurt that bad, and she said no thank you to the ambulance about taking her to the hospital, but shortly thereafter she got nauseated and sick, had a lot of pain in her neck and a really bad headache.

We had to go to the emergency room, which isn’t uncommon these kinds of accidents. The injuries kind of come on after the adrenaline subsides, but here’s the point that I was reminded that there was really interesting.

Property Injury In A Car Accident

My son took the car and put it in the garage. I took my wife to the hospital. Nobody really took a long look at the car itself for property damage. We just could tell that it was drivable and wasn’t that bad. The next day the property appraiser came out from the insurance company and looked at the car and found substantial damage from where the bumper was supposed to be attached to the car, but it had broken free and was no longer attached. Bottom line…there was a couple of thousand dollars worth of property damage that to the naked eye, you really couldn’t see.

So if you take a picture the back in the car, you’d say well wasn’t much of an accident. So everybody’s fine, right? You’d look a little closer and you realize there’s some steel brackets that are broken, and as you might imagine two cars colliding, there was enough force to bust those brackets.

What was interesting to me though and one of the things that struck out as a reminder to me was my wife was actually delighted to hear that there was that much property damage, because in her mind, it validated how badly she felt physically. You see, if there was no damage, she felt guilty being hurt, but with property damage, she felt like well, now I have a reason to be hurt and that highlights something I want to talk about today.

Insurance Company Tactics

You know, if you get into a car accident in Florida, the lawyers that represent insurance companies that will fight to deny your benefits and your insurance compensation, those lawyers are very good, and the industry has gotten very, very skilled at using techniques to deprive victims that are injured in accidents their proper compensation, and one of those techniques is really simple. You just take a picture of a car and you blow it up and you hold it for the jury, and you go “Ladies and gentlemen, nobody got hurt in this accident. I mean look at the pictures of the car”. Right? And we’re certainly put in the position to say, gosh, there isn’t a whole lot or property damage to that car so I guess that means nobody could be hurt.

Fighting The Insurance Company Tactics… with Science.

Well, there’s actually a big body of science out there that measures body kinematics and biomechanics in car accidents. You know, you’ve seen those crash test dummies and the bodies moving around in all kinds different ways, and them being recorded.

There’s some video out there done by a Dr. Croft and his research team. I want to show you a little bit of that video if we can, and you can see that in these in this accident that they simulated, they’re actually just pushing a car, hand-pushing a car, into the rear end of another car. The occupant of the car that gets rear-ended; the door’s taken off, and they measure the movement of their head, and in a accident that’s like six miles an hour or eight miles an hour with zero property damage, not even a scratch on the cars, you can see the occupant of this vehicle because of the way they have the camera setup, the head goes flying all over the place. There’s a bump, and the person jerks back, and their head’s snapped back. I mean you can’t…you can’t simulate that. You can’t fake that. In the video you can see that in a very minor accident, with very little to no property damage, the body in the car moves quite violently. Now the seatbelt prevents the head from hitting the steering wheel, and safety features such as air bags and glass and all this, you know, shatterproof glass, all the engineering techniques are designed to keep it safe, but it’s not perfect.

You know one of the analogies that I’ve used with jurors over the years is this: if you’re in the grocery store and you’re buying a carton of eggs, and you go to put that dozen eggs into your grocery cart, and you just bobble it and it drops out of your hand a couple of inches down into the into the buggy, when you look at the carton and that Styrofoam is fine, right? But do you open the carton and look inside and check those eggs? Because the fact that the carton isn’t damaged doesn’t mean that the eggs inside of it aren’t damaged, right? The relative strength and resilience and the ability to withstand impact and not show a mark is a lot different between the Styrofoam and the egg, just as it’s different between the car and the occupant.

Personal Injury Lawyer Tactics: How We Protect You.

So let me tell you what we’re doing about that here at Michles & Booth. We’ve actually achieved several orders from trial courts excluding the photographs in cases where there is no expert testimony to marry the damage to the car to the damage of the person. We’ve actually achieved orders where the evidence will not be admitted, because it’s not displaying anything of value. It’s showing what the damage is to the car, but there’s no connection to the damage to the person, and if there was a connection between the damage to the car and the damage to the person, guess what would be true? Every ambulance driver in America would have a digital phone where they take a digital picture of the car, and then they’d email that to the emergency room, and the emergency room would look at the car and say that person can be hurt. Or here’s another way you’d know. Every medical school would have a course teaching doctors how to diagnose patients having looked at the car.

Well that seems silly, doesn’t it? No ambulance driver takes any pictures of any car. No emergency room doctor looks at any picture of any car, and the reason is there’s no relationship between the damage to the car and the damage to the person in the car. So that fallacy and that fiction is dying, and that’s a good thing, because junk science, we don’t need; more science, we do need.

I’m Marcus Michles for Michles & Booth. If you’ve got questions about car accidents or personal injury law, or how these photographs work or don’t work, or for that matter this Croft research, give me a call. I’d be happy to talk to you about it and discuss it further.

In the meantime, I’m Marcus Michles. See you next week.


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