If you have been injured in an accident, you may need to get familiar with a new word: biomechanics. While it may conjure images of robots or funky greenhouses, biomechanics is actually an interdisciplinary scientific field that studies how forces (tension, compression, and shear) affect the human body. You may hear the term from your physical therapist or your lawyer. In physical therapy, biomechanical evaluations can help to identify and heal injured areas that are causing referred pain.
How Biomechanics is Used in Court
In court, biomechanics can help prove your side of the story. In some crashes, especially crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists, testimony regarding the actual injury event may vary. They may be no witnesses, no video, and no accident report. Biomechanics can be used to reconstruct the injury event and determine if the injuries are consistent with the physical evidence and testimony. This helps the court avoid a frustrating “he said she said” situation and get to the truth.
Biomechanical analysis can be used to determine a vehicle’s speed and force of impact. Greater speeds translate into more severe injuries and, in pedestrian accidents, a greater “throw distance.” In 80-90% of pedestrian accidents, the pedestrian actually travels with the car until it stops, then is “thrown” some distance away. This distance can be used to determine the vehicle’s speed. In a light impact pedestrian accident, biomechanical analysis can determine which injuries were caused by the vehicle impact versus the road’s surface. (Hint: the more severe injuries usually come from vehicle impact, not the resulting fall.)
Workplace Injury Evaluation
Biomechanical analysis can also be used to evaluate workplace injuries. There are over 200,000 workplace injuries in the U.S. every year including falls, being struck by flying objects, and being injured by vehicles or equipment. Biomechanical analysis can determine if protective equipment was being utilized and safety precautions were in place. It can determine whether an injury was due to a defective product, malfunctioning machinery, or some other cause.
Biomechanical evaluations consider the age and physical condition of the injured party. Some people can walk away from crashes that would injure others. Children’s bones are more flexible than the bones of adults, and osteoporosis makes bones more likely to break. Biomechanical analysis can prove that an event that might not have hurt a “typical” person still caused injury to the plaintiff. The well-known Eggshell Skull Rule ensures that more fragile or sensitive plaintiffs cannot have their fragility used against them. A plaintiff’s fragility or weakness cannot be used to reduce their award.
Why Is All This Important?
In Colorado, at-fault parties are liable for damages according to the proportion of their negligence. A driver may attempt to avoid full or partial liability by saying that a pedestrian was standing in the middle of the road, for example, or that a bicyclist veered wildly and caused the impact. An insurer may argue that a second or third impact actually caused the plaintiff’s injury, or that the injury was pre-existing. These arguments are attempts to reduce any award the defendant may owe.
Biomechanical Analysis and The Facts
In court, tensions can run high. Biomechanical analysis lets the facts speak for themselves. Just because there were no witnesses to your accident doesn’t mean you have no recourse. Broken bones and dented fenders can tell your story, too.
Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal