feature Story BY aLYSSa L. DEMarCo, JohN C. GarDiNEr, DENNiS D. ChiMiCh
Assessing Auto-Related Bodily Injury Claims
sion in football and other sports high- lights the significant short- and long-term effects these injuries can have as well
as the controversies surrounding proper
diagnosis and treatment.
When an individual claims an injury
such as MTBI, proper use of a biomechanical engineer can be valuable in assessing the validity of the claim. A common case involves a concussion claim
following a relatively low speed rear-end
collision. In this type of collision, the
driver initially moves rearward relative to
the forward-moving vehicle. The driver’s
back compresses the seat cushion and his
head rotates rearward until it contacts the
head restraint. Following this rearward
motion, the driver rebounds forward into
the seat belt, but typically avoids head
contact with any other structures.
In this case, the peak head acceleration
occurs during the head contact with the
head restraint. Many experimental tests
simulating this type of collision have been
conducted using human volunteers, cadavers, and crash test dummies. From these
tests, the driver’s peak head acceleration exposure is estimated. This value is then compared to published levels that have been
associated with concussion. For low speed
rear-end collisions, the head restraint padding and compliant seats of most vehicles
typically result in low head accelerations
with a very low concussion risk.
Did the claimant sustain a head injury in the incident? Would the diagnosed head injury have been prevented if the claimant was using a protective device such as a helmet, seat belt, or airbag? Biomechanical engineers frequently answer in- jury causation and prevention questions like these in personal injury claims.
During the course of an investigation, biomechanical engineers may compare the
forces or accelerations experienced by the head in an incident to those required to cause
the diagnosed injury. The incident forces/accelerations are calculated through reconstruction of the event, and the forces/accelerations required for the injury are typically
determined from published experimental data. If the forces/accelerations in the incident
are of the magnitude required for the injury, then the injury is likely consistent with the
incident. However, if they are not, then other factors may be at play. This could mean
that a claimant exaggerated an injury or failed to report an underlying condition, among
This type of professional analysis can be useful when injuries like concussion or mild
traumatic brain injury (MTBI) are
being claimed. The terms concussion and MTBI are typically used
to describe the same injury and are
often used interchangeably. Concussion is difficult for medical doctors
to diagnose because objective evidence of the injury can be lacking.
Recent media attention on concus- a) b)
Safety equipment such as helmets, seat
belts and airbags can mitigate or prevent
head injuries when used properly. Biomechanical engineers often answer questions about the use and effectiveness of
these safety devices.
Helmets for motorcycling, bicycling,
and other activities are designed to mitigate and prevent brain, skull and super-
34 MarCh 2012 Claims Magazine PropertyCasualty360.com
P FIGURE 1. TYPICAL MOTORCYCLE HELMET
Ex TERIOR (A) AND INTERIOR (B) DAMAGE
FOLLOwING AN IMPACT.