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The Common Sense and Basic Physics of Bumper-To-Bumper Car Accidents

08th April 2009
By scarpey in Legal
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The quality of bumper design systems in cars these days has a direct effect of the severity of the occupants in rear and front end accidents. A high quality bumper system is designed to absorb the force of the impact by "compressing." A low quality bumper system fails this test and the forces of the impact are passed through the vehicle to the occupants. Many cars on the road today have the lesser quality bumper.

Insurance companies who evaluate property damage and personal injury claims as a result of rear end collisions and front end collisions are adept at minimizing the extent of the presumed damage to occupants if minimal damage is visible on the bumpers following an accident. They have stables of "biomechanical engineers" ready to testify in court. The insurance company experts equate minimal visible damage to a bumper to little or no physical injury to the occupants of the car. This is just a trick, however. It takes common sense, a basic knowledge of physics, and opposing expert testimony to defeat the insurance company experts in this regard.

Rear end car accidents are the most common type of car accidents in Pennsylvania. With the advent of cell phone use in cars and other devices that auto manufacturers continue to place in new models(for example, GPS devices) these type of car accidents will continue to rise.

Federal vehicle safety standards regarding bumpers go back to 1978. The standards were not intended to reduce potential injuries to occupants. Rather, the standards were designed to protect the vehicles. Lower speed impacts frequently result in minimal deformation of plastic/polyurethane bumper parts. However, this results in a greater proportion of force directed to the occupants of the vehicles.

Insurance companies rely on experts who supply reports which may contain the following type of language: "since the impact speed of the striking vehicle was extremely low almost no energy was transferred to the occupants of the vehicle which was struck."

Such a position of an expert for an insurance company would be in violation of Isaac Newton's second principle which basically states that if you place force on an object it will accelerate. And, an object accelerates in the direction that you push it. The acceleration is directly proportional to the force. In other words, if you push twice as hard, it accelerates twice as much. The greater the mass, the more the object that is struck will move. For instance, twice the mass of an object behind pushed into an object in front equals twice as much acceleration. So if a small car is struck in the rear by a larger car, being of more mass the larger car will force the smaller car to accelerate more than if the smaller car had been struck by a lighter car.

Newton's laws are common sense. They are taught in high school physics classes. Impact causes motion. The can be no disagreement about the fact that when an object is struck it will move.

Bottom line - low speed impact or plastic bumpers do not mean the occupants of a car sustain no injury where bumper meets bumper. The transfer of energy must go somewhere, and it is carried through the car into the occupant's body.


For more than two decades, Philadelphia car-accident lawyer Stuart Carpey has worked tirelessly protecting the rights of people injured in accidents.

He wrote this article to help the public in understanding the arguments utilized by insurance companies in "minor impact" car accident cases, and ways to counter those arguments with the use and understanding of basic physics

. For more information and articles on how to protect your rights, visit Kreithen Baron and Carpey's Philadelphia Personal-Injury Lawyer website.
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About the Author
Occupation: Personal Injury Attorney
For more than two decades, Stuart A. Carpey has worked tirelessly protecting the rights of people injured in accidents. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1983 and from the Villanova University School of Law 1987.

He is the lead attorney at the firm, focusing his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing severely injured plaintiffs in a vast array of personal injury cases. He also represents individuals and small businesses in disputes involving insurance claims. He is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, whose membership is restricted to attorneys who have secured million-dollar settlements or verdicts. He writes on personal injury matters and has lectured at continuing legal education seminars for other attorneys on issues relating to personal injury and insurance law. He is a leader in his field.

Mr. Carpey has been honored in the Philadelphia legal community, and nationally, for his pro bono work as an attorney. Not only has he volunteered his time and expertise for people in need of legal services in the Philadelphia area, but also represented individuals who are injured at the World Trade Center who were victims of the 9/11 attacks. He is dedicated to preserving and strengthening the rights of consumers and individuals in the civil justice system.
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