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“I barely touched him!”


“I barely touched him!” This statement is frequently heard when a driver describes the severity of the low speed rear-end collision he or she caused. Although you would love to believe your client or insured, you still need to determine the severity of the collision. 

Low speed impacts are generally defined as collisions that result in little or no damage to the vehicles involved and can be grouped according to the vehicles’ orientation at impact. These groups are rear impacts, frontal impacts, lateral (side) impacts, and sideswipe collisions. 

In order to assess the severity of a minor collision, the extent of vehicle damage and orientation of the vehicles at impact must be assessed. To do this, the vehicles are examined so that the sustained damage relevant to the collision can be documented. However, due to the minor nature of these collisions, there is rarely any evidence from the scene of the accident and vehicle damage offers limited information regarding the vehicles’ impact orientation.  Therefore, witness statements provide the vital missing information to confirm orientation. If two vehicles’ bumper systems are offset or angled during a collision, damage will typically appear more significant than if two vehicles were aligned at impact.   Without some indication from witness statements, the impact severity can be incorrectly over-assessed if the wrong impact orientation is assumed.  The bottom line is the better the information, the better the result. 

Brief statements regarding orientation provided by involved parties are helpful; statements regarding damage, however, are not particularly useful. The most common statement is, “There is no damage to my vehicle.” This rather subjective statement understates the damage. In most cases, a closer inspection will reveal light scuffing or other minor indications of an impact.   Furthermore, the bumper systems of many newer vehicles are designed to withstand impacts where the change in velocity 10 km/h or greater will not exhibit any obvious visible damage. In a recent collision case, a 1998 Buick Park  Avenue had no obvious visible damage after sustaining a change in velocity greater than 10 km/h;  however, a closer look revealed scuff marks on the bumper cover. To investigators, the more the information, the better the assessment.


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