work in a vacuum. He or she has access
to numerous studies of real-world accidents similar to, or the same as, the one
In court, it is important for a biomechanical engineer to use similes so jurors and
judges understand the explanations of
forces upon a body in a car accident in
terms of everyday realities. For example,
relating forces on the lumbar spine experienced in an accident to the forces experienced by an individual bending over to
tie his or her shoes.
Suppose you are travelling at a low speed
when the vehicle in front of you abruptly
stops, causing your vehicle to rear-end the
stopped vehicle. The police arrive at the
scene and record all pertinent details.
Later you learn that the driver and pas-
senger of the other vehicle are claiming
soft tissue injuries to their spine, shoul-
ders and knee. Could those injuries have
occurred from that “minor” accident?
Let’s look at the incident through the eyes
of the biomechanical engineer.
Examine the details relating to the accident based on the information available. What were the speeds of the vehicles
at the time of the accident? At what angle
did the vehicles collide? Did the air bags
deploy in either vehicle? Were safety restraints used by the vehicle occupants?
What were the conditions of the road and
weather at the time?
Reconstruct the accident and determine the severity of the impact.
Study what happened to the bodies
of those involved at the time of impact.
What does each party state about how the
accident occurred? How did their bodies
react during the collision? Did their bod-
ies jolt forward and back? Did they strike
the steering wheel, dashboard or door?
Look at the medical records and cor-
relate them with the claimed injuries.
What injuries are being claimed? What
treatment have they pursued? Do these in-
dividuals have a history of any conditions?
Utilize all resources available. There is
a myriad of literature to reference, includ-
ing crash tests and research studies of the
human body mechanics and tissue toler-
ance. Once the biomechanical engineer
concludes the force applied to the indi-
vidual and also the mechanism of injury,
a full analysis can be provided.
So…could the claimed injuries have
happened from that minor rear-end accident? The science of biomechanics can
make that determination.
Hank Walshak (hankwalshak@verizon.
net) is the president of Walshak
Communications, Inc. in Bethel Park, Pa.
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