Low Speed Impact RTA

We recently investigated a road traffic accident where Mr A (the Claimant) alleged neck and back injuries resulting from a low speed collision that occurred when Mr B reversed his car into Mr A's. The accident occurred on a main road, just prior to a traffic light-controlled pedestrian crossing, in the mouth of a junction with an access road.

Mr B had stopped his car at the traffic lights, even though they were green. Whilst stationary he saw his friend (Mr C), off to his left.

Mr A's car had approached the rear of Mr B's car while it was stationary and the vehicles were between two to eight feet apart. Mr A maintained that his vehicle was central in the lane, whilst Mr B and Mr C thought it was to the nearside. Either way, it was positioned in a 'Keep Clear' zone.

So that he could speak to Mr C, Mr B reversed his car into the access road. Mr B checked his offside mirror, cannot recall if he checked his nearside mirror, and did not check his central rear view mirror. He saw no vehicles and so commenced reversing slowly and had covered only a few feet before he felt a 'slight resistance'. Mr A alleged that Mr B had 'shot back' and hit the front of his car with such force that Mr B's car had 'ridden-up' onto the bonnet and catapulted his car backwards.

We were instructed to inspect Mr B's car and consider photographic evidence relating to Mr A's car, to visit the scene and to consider whether the vehicles' damage was consistent with the witness accounts of the accident.

The rear of Mr B's car was essentially undamaged. Mr A's car however bore substantial damage, much of which appeared to be unrelated to the accident.

It was possible for us to determine the most likely range of speeds for Mr B's car at impact from the range of vehicle separation distances given in witness evidence. As Mr A's car was stationary, it was possible to determine the most likely change in velocity of his car as a result of the collision. This analysis was then used by a medical expert to determine the likelihood that Mr A could have sustained the reported injuries as a result of the collision.

The likely speed of Mr B's car before impact was calculated as about 2 to 7 mph (depending upon the separation) and the likely change in speed of Mr A's car was about the same.

Engineering evidence suggested a large disparity between the damage to the two vehicles. Damage to Mr B's car indicated that it had been travelling slowly when the collision occurred; Mr A's car appeared to have collided with an object whilst travelling at a higher speed.

Further analysis determined the most likely contact point between the vehicles. There was a lack of corresponding marks on Mr B's car at the likely contact point, suggesting it was unlikely that the accident could have occurred in the manner described by Mr A.

The witness evidence given in Court suggested that the vehicle separation was quite small, and therefore on the balance of probability it appeared more likely that the change in velocity of Mr A's car fell into the lower range, below the medical expert's suggested threshold above which injury might occur. In this particular case, the evidence of Mr C was very strongly supportive of Mr B and also the engineering evidence.

Judgement was awarded in favour of our client's policyholder, the Defendant, Mr B.

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