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When I was 16 I drove a 10-year-old Chevy Astro Van, and my insurance rates were ridiculous. I had no accidents, I was driving a very uncool car, yet I was being charged an astronomical rate for simply existing, being male, and being young. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that Lindsay Lohan’s current insurance rates are cheaper than mine were when I was 16. If I can recall correctly, I had to pay about $250 per month for insurance on my van with very low coverage. While I can’t share the name of the insurance provider I had at the time, I will say that if they were my neighbor, I’d never let them borrow a cup of sugar. So, what was a young honor student to do to fight this injustice? One option was a driver’s education class. Full disclosure; Driver’s Ed was not the magical experience I imagined. While I did get to drive a lot during the class, the car was not cool, and the teacher would make us drive him to his house often. Then he would tell us about how much he enjoyed the football team. I learned more about driving watching televised motor racing than I ever learned in that class. There was one exception, though. One particular day we took a field trip to the football field. At first, I thought our instructor just wanted to watch the football team practice, but it was actually a pretty neat event. It was a day of safety training. Being 16 and excited for a day of safety training probably tells you a lot about why I wasn’t very popular in high school.
While checking out the festivities, one exhibit stood out. It was an apparatus called “The Convincer.” Just typing that name now sends shivers down my spine. As you can tell by my writing, I tend to be a bit cynical. That was true 16 years ago, just like it is today. So, when I saw this thing, I made jokes. It’s a little trailer with a seat at the top of a ramp. Essentially you get in, strap yourself in with a seatbelt. Then an officer of the law hits a lever and lets you fly. As you come to the end of the ramp, the seat stops suddenly and your body jerks forward to simulate a low-speed crash. It is actually quite dangerous and painful. Essentially it’s supposed to simulate a 5-7 mph crash and convince young drivers to wear a seatbelt. It’s quite effective.
(When I started writing this blog I didn’t think these things were still around. After all, I rode it 16 years ago and really didn’t think it was something people should be riding. As an individual working for a personal injury law firm, I know how dangerous this type of impact can be. Apparently, Convincers are still really popular today. In fact, you can find one in most states. A lot of them are presented by insurance companies. I have a theory that they document their customers riding these so that if you come to them later with a neck or back claim, they’ll try to say your back was injured on The Convincer, and that you signed a waiver and can’t get a settlement because of your pre-existing condition. I can’t prove it, but I would not be surprised)
While my ride on The Convincer was very dramatic, it did teach me a valuable lesson. It taught me the dangers of driving without a seatbelt and the hidden issues with low-speed impacts. Too often we treat low-speed impacts without much concern. I can actually speak from experience on this topic. Within the past four years, I’ve had three low-speed impacts. In two of the three impacts, I was hit from behind by drivers who had much larger vehicles than mine. Also, just to keep you entertained, all three accidents happened because I was getting fast food. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something. The only thing more dangerous than getting fast food as much as I do is that I never pursued an examination by a medical professional after each accident. In my mind, my car was not too badly damaged each time, and I didn’t feel any immediate pain after the impact, so I was fine. Plus, I hate going to the doctor, I’m stubborn, and I didn’t want the doctor to tell me that I was going to die. The last part may seem like a joke, but I really do fear to go to the doctor because I am afraid that they will tell me that I am terminally ill. I think it is a result of watching too many medical dramas. Regardless, I found every excuse I could, not to get my back and neck examined. Use my life as a cautionary tale; don’t do what I do.
So, what is the real problem with what I did? Well, if I want to pursue any type of personal injury claim now, the odds are not in my favor. My most recent rear-end collision occurred in March of 2016. I am writing this blog in July, four months later. While I have not surpassed the statute of limitations, my lack of medical evidence does not bode well for my case. Granted, I have no neck or back pain now, but if I did, I would have a much more difficult time building a case now than if I would have treated within 24 hours of my accident.
A gap in treatment never helps a case. This is true for Personal Injury, Veterans Disability, and Social Security. Let’s use my four-month gap as an example. If I started treating for a neck injury now, that gap could look suspicious. The insurance company for the driver who hit me would argue that I could have injured my neck in a different way. They would likely argue that I could have injured my neck in an ATV accident, by falling, or even from my fight club. In all honesty, they could argue that my injuries occurred from a countless number of ways, and they would have a much stronger case than I do. This is in stark contrast to how we could argue in my favor if I would have gone to the emergency room shortly after my accident. That trip to the ER could easily show injuries that occurred as a result of the accident. An x-ray, cat scan, or MRI can do a lot to show breaks and fractures. Just because you didn’t feel pain immediately after a wreck, it doesn’t mean you won’t have pain later. Something that can cause you pain will likely be visible in an X-ray, MRI and so on, much earlier than when you start to have physical pain.
Some may argue that their car had little to no damage, and there is no way they could have pain. Let’s once again look at my accident from March. I drive a mid-level 2005 Chevrolet Malibu. Before you ask, yes, this car attracts a ton of attention from the opposite gender. Sarcasm aside, it’s a small car. The vehicle that struck me was a 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class. It weighs nearly 4500 pounds. The driver may have only been traveling at 2-3 mph, but my car was stationary. It was also a downhill impact, and his vehicle sat up higher than mine. While I don’t know much about physics, I do know all of these factors made the impact on my body worse. Also, I was not sitting straight during my impact. My torso was turned to the left and my neck was fully extended. This is not a good way to be positioned while getting hit by a 4500 pound SUV. Maybe the accident didn’t cause any bone fractures, but an impact like this can cause soft tissue injuries. This is a term that refers to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Even a small impact can cause serious in these parts of the body.
While I can’t buy a Convincer and make everyone who reads this post take a ride to see the dangers of low-speed impacts, I can tell you that pain is not fun. You may think that it’s obvious, but I know most of you are like me, and you won’t go to the doctor, or get yourself checked out for a minor fender bender. Yes, sitting in the ER waiting room may be boring; it sure beats a lifetime of pain. Besides, we all have smartphones now, and you can pass the time a lot easier. You also shouldn’t let fear decide if you go to the doctor. If my mom reads this, she will tell me to take my own advice. But it’s true. Most of the time, the doctor won’t find anything life threatening when you go for your exam. There is also a chance that they won’t find anything wrong with you at all. That is always a good feeling. However, if there is an issue, it’s better to get treatment for it right away. Plus consistent treatment will help you get a favorable decision. A few hours in the ER beats a lifetime of uncompensated pain.
Just because your car is drivable, and the airbags didn’t deploy, it doesn’t mean that you are ok. If you’re involved in a low impact wreck, take the time to get evaluated. It’s always better to do it sooner rather than later. If you find yourself in this situation, call us. We will be proud to help guide you. Many of us have been in accidents before and can understand your concern. We’ve been doing this for more than 20 years. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you don’t have free time now, fill out this form, and we’ll be happy to give you a call at a better time.
One last note to put this all in perspective; some doctors estimate that approximately 85% of all clinically treated neck injuries are a result of car accidents. That is far more than sports injuries, falls, and assaults combined.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, call us today for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457, If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we’ll call you at a better time.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law