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Bridging the Gap Between Medicine & Mechanics


Have you ever had a file come across your desk where the question of injury – either causation or severity – is beyond the scope of a standard engineering analysis? Does a medical assessment not quite address the issue either? If the answer is yes to either question, then a bio-mechanical assessment is likely what you need. A bio-mechanical engineer can bridge the gap between an engineering analysis and a separate medical assessment. Engineers can conclude how a collision occurred and comment on the possibility for injury based on the facts available to them. Medical experts can comment on the extent of injury and hypothesize how an injury occurred.  Essentially, a bio-mechanical engineer provides good value by offering you two expert opinions for the price of one.

Generally speaking, a bio-mechanical engineer is retained later on in the claim settlement process. The need for a bio-mechanical engineer arises when an adjuster or lawyer questions the legitimacy of injuries claimed. In the case of vehicle or vehicle-pedestrian collisions it is necessary to first have an accident reconstruction completed prior to a biomechanical assessment. At Sintra Engineering, a biomechanical engineer is also able to complete an accident reconstruction. This is beneficial in that the biomechanical engineer can ensure that the collision dynamics used as variables in the biomechanical assessment are accurate. Furthermore, a biomechanical engineer who is familiar with the characteristics of vehicle interiors and restraint systems (e.g. seat belts and air bags) as well as the dynamics of occupants in a collision is beneficial in assessment of injury causation and answering questions related to seat belt use, injury potential, injury mechanisms, and occupant seating positions.

So what exactly do you get in a bio-mechanical engineering assessment? You get expert opinion on whether or not the injuries claimed were sustained from the incident in question. To accomplish this, a bio-mechanical engineer collects as much information as possible about the incident and about the individual’s actions before, during, and after the incident. For example, in the case of a vehicle collision, a passenger out of position prior to the collision (e.g. seat back reclined while sleeping, leaned forward to pick something up off the floor) could greatly affect their motion and injury potential. A review of medical documents for the individual pre- and post-accident provides useful information for a biomechanical assessment. The specific description of the type, location, and extent of the injuries helps determine how they may have occurred. Knowledge of pre-existing conditions gives insight into the individual’s possible increased susceptibility to injury or indicates that the injuries claimed may be a continuation or exacerbation of a previous condition. This information is then analyzed and used to generate an expert opinion on the potential extent of injury.

Soft tissue injuries can be more difficult to assess than more concrete injuries, such as fractures or abrasions. The presence of a soft tissue injury can be difficult to verify as it is usually based on reporting by the individual and each person’s sensitivity to or tolerance of pain varies. In such cases, a person’s symptoms can only be compared to compilations of injury symptoms statistics from published literature. Sintra Engineering’s bio-mechanical engineers can conclude the likelihood of injury symptom occurrence as a function of vehicle speed change in low-speed collisions and the likelihood of the injury symptoms lasting longer than a specified duration. This can help resolve a case where the injuries claimed are in question.

Biomechanical engineering is a relatively new and constantly evolving field of engineering. Remaining up to date with current research is essential. Our biomechanical engineering division reviews current published periodicals, belongs to several biomechanical societies (e.g. Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, International Research Council on the Biomechanics of Impact, International Society of Biomechanics) and attends and presents at biomechanical conferences.


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