26 | MAY 2018 | Claims Magazine | PropertyCasualty360.com
Consider reviewing a claim by an individual who asserts that he or she has suffered physical injuries from being involved
in a low-impact motor vehicle accident.
Depending on the specific situation, the
person may claim a variety of injuries.
How can anyone know if those claimed
injuries could have resulted from that
particular accident? This is where a biomechanical analysis can be priceless. By
applying the principles of physics and engineering in evaluating the full scope of
an incident, the biomechanical engineer
can provide a scientific analysis of the
injuries claimed by an individual. In addition, by eliminating the subjective conclusions and applying true science, this
analysis can determine whether a claimed
injury could have resulted from a specific
motor vehicle accident.
A biomechanical engineer begins by re-
viewing all available information relating
to the accident including, but not limited
to, accident reports, medical records, ve-
hicle photographs and repair estimates,
witness testimonies, and any applicable
legal documentation. If necessary, an on-
site inspection of the involved vehicles and
accident scene is also conducted.
“Analyzing an auto accident is like
solving a puzzle,” remarked Kevin Toosi,
M.D., Ph.D., president of Pittsburgh Bio-
mechanics. “And for the analysis, you
would like to have as many pieces of acci-
dent-related information as possible.”
It is important to note that before a col-
lision, a vehicle and its occupants travel at
the same speed and in the same direction
with respect to the ground. When two ve-
hicles collide, their velocities change over
a very short period of time.
For instance, during a typical rear-end
collision, the striking vehicle slows down
and the speed of the impacted vehicle
actually increases. Changes in velocity
and acceleration of a vehicle during an
accident substantiate the severity of the
collision experienced by the occupants of
the vehicle. These changes in velocity and
acceleration determine movement of the
occupants relative to the vehicle interior
and possible forces they could experience
as a result of an impact.
“In order to establish a causal relation-
ship between an accident and claimed
injuries, it’s necessary to define two crit-
ical elements – force and mechanism,”
Accident reconstruction methods
By using the available information, along
with the application of physics laws
and engineering principles, an accident
reconstruction can help quantify the
amount of force generated by the impact.
Occupant kinematics (or occupant motion) resulting from the accident are then
examined to determine if the mechanism
of a claimed injury was present.
When reconstructing an auto accident,
many factors are considered. “So many
things can occur at once in an accident,”
said Toosi. For example: Did the air bag
deploy or not? Were the occupants restrained? Which direction were the vehicles moving relative to each other? At
what angle did the impact occur? What
was the duration of impact?
It is necessary to define these variables to reach a conclusion that has the
elements required for specific injuries,
including certain magnitudes of force
and specific mechanisms. In addition,
the biomechanical engineer doesn’t
DID THAT ACCIDENT CAUSE THOSE INJURIES?
By Hank Walshak