Defense Lawyer Tricks: Low initial impact cases mean no personal injury

The most severe impact can occur following the two cars crashing

When representing someone in a motor vehicle accident we tend to focus on the initial vehicle crash itself. People want to know how hard the two cars hit or how much damage was there, but the amount of the damage from that crash can be quite insignificant. Defense lawyers like to mislead the eye and make erroneous conclusions that fool the jury.

Sometimes the most significant impact occurs after the initial impact between the two vehicles. The most severe impact can occur inside the car’s passenger compartment, or outside of it or both inside and outside. I’ve had the experience of learning the hard way about how to get better at evaluating the crash sequence. As a lawyer you don’t want to focus too much on the facts as you expect them to be; instead focus on the facts as they unfolded during the crash. This is why you need to talk to witnesses, take a look at the car (assuming it’s still available and that the insurance company didn’t destroy this evidence) and visit the scene of the crash.

First Significant Impact

There are several impacts the drivers and passengers experience during and following the impact between two vehicles. I have a case in my office where the two drivers collided when the offending driver attempted to turn left of center, into my clients front driver’s side fender and then continued to impact the entire side of the car; for whatever reason she just didn’t turn away from my client after the initial impact. My client reacted by turning right to get away from the continuing impact, went off into the ditch and came into contact with a cement culvert.

Driveway Culvert                 

Second Significant Impact

Culverts are concrete pipe that are of large or smaller sizes, are set in the ground and usually under a roadbed set perpendicular to the road’s surface. It’s sort of like setting a straw under a napkin. The napkin is the roadbed and the straw the culvert. Water on either side of the napkin can be drained from one side to the other by allowing water to flow naturally through the straw. It’s the same way for getting water from one side of a roadbed to the other or from one side of a rural driveway to the other side. These culverts allow drainage of water over miles and away from places where we don’t want water to sit cultivating mosquito beds.

If you strike a culvert it isn’t likely to move. These culverts are heavy, set in the ground, are usually in wet clay and don’t move upon impact. So when a car’s front end strikes the end of a culvert it doesn’t move and the car’s forward progress either comes to an immediate stop or else rolls or flips ass over teakettle.

Ass over teakettle is one of many variants of an expression meaning 'head over heels; topsy-turvy; in confusion'. The usual British version is ass over tip (or tit), which occurs in James Joyce's Ulysses, among other works. This form also occurs in America. For instance, in The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck has a character say "You jus' scrabblin' ass over tit, fear somebody gonna pin some blame on you." See Mavens’ Word Of The Day.

The Third Significant Impact

That’s what happened to my client; after the car slammed into the culvert her body was forced forward and her head struck the steel window frame on the left side of the windshield causing the disc in her neck to become herniated. You could see the steel post’s imprint on her swollen forehead. These steel “windshield frames” are called pillars.

Pillars are the vertical or near vertical supports of an automobile's window area or greenhouse — designated respectively as the A, B, C or D-pillar moving in profile view from the front to rear.

In American and British English, the pillars are sometimes referred to as posts (A-post, B-post etc.).

When a car crashes with another one, forcing it off the road and into the ditch culvert, the most severe impact can be after the initial crash between the two cars. This doesn’t change liability because the injuries are nevertheless still caused by the other driver’s negligence.


Let’s look at a recent real-life example.

A recent accident resulting in a young boy’s death may have been caused when the car his mother drove went off the road’s hard surface and into the ditch where it came into contact with a concrete culvert. The mother herself is reported to be hospitalized and in critical condition.

Boy, 7, killed in Boone County accident (blog) - The car, a Chevrolet Malibu driven by Kristin Stoneburner, 32, of Boone, went off the road and into a ditch and collided with a concrete culvert about 12:20 pm, according to a report from Iowa State Patrol troopers. Jarret Stoneburner, 7, is dead.

These culverts come in all shapes, sizes and weights.


Uses for Precast Concrete Box Culverts

  • Water ( storm water and sewage) retention
  • Storm drainage
  • Water storage 
  • Pedestrian underpasses
  • Animal crossings
  • Holding tanks
  • Utility conduit

 As the driver the “impact” you’re looking for can be multidimensional and change from what you expect to what you can’t anticipate. There can be no cars for miles; a deer runs across the highway, you swerve to avoid the deer in the headlights, end up going into the ditch where you contact a culvert and end up end over end or into a rollover accident. So drivers have to stay awake and aware of not just what they see in their immediate view but ready to anticipate the unexpected and after the crash sequence starts there may be other impacts the driver is faced with trying to avoid. 

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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