In recent years, defense attorneys in Michigan auto accident lawsuits have begun retaining "experts" in the field of biomechanical engineering to provide "expert testimony" that the forces of a particular auto accident were incapable of causing significant injury to the occupants. Typically, defense attorneys use these so called biomechanical experts to argue to a jury that a particular plaintiff could not have been injured in a low impact and/or low property damage accident. This new trend has emerged in numerous trial courts, not only in Michigan, but throughout the United States. Most often, these experts pop-up in cases where the Plaintiff has sustained an injury to the neck or back (such as a herniated disc) or in cases involving a traumatic brain injury (a/k/a closed head injury).
Essentially the biomechanical expert opines that based upon a specific Delta V (change in acceleration) or a specific amount of g force in the auto accident, an individual is incapable of being injured. In fact, many of these experts will testify that an auto accident cannot cause a herniated disc without a fracture to the spine. In support of their "opinions," the defense biomechanical experts routinely rely on a small body of literature involving human volunteers (mostly male), crash dummies, animals, and cadavers who are subjected to impact collisions on sleds and in crash tests.
Further compounding their flawed methodology is the biomechanical expert's seemingly intentional failure to consider significant variables in their calculations, such as changes in an occupant's physical characteristics, body position, seat position, pre-existing physical condition of the occupant, as well as the position and location of the headrest. The controlled studies upon which most biomechanical engineers rely on all involve mostly healthy men who were sitting in normal seated positions, head forward with a properly placed headrest. These staged collisions in no way replicate real world events or real world people involved in collisions.
The insurance industry has inundated the citizens of Michigan and the United States with propaganda claiming that our civil justice system is a lottery, and that rogue juries ignore the law and award uninjured Plaintiff's millions of dollars. This propaganda has resulted in the so-called "Tort Reform" movement in Michigan, and other states. Use of these "junk science" biomechanical experts prey upon this perception of greedy trial lawyers and plaintiffs. Fortunately, these efforts to inject "junk science" into motor vehicle accident litigation has not gone unchallenged and courts throughout the United States have overwhelmingly barred this type of testimony.
For example, the following decisions in Federal and State jurisdictions have recognized that scientifically unsound opinions of biomechanics are not admissible at trial. They include, but are not limited, to: Cromer v. Mulkey Enter., Inc., 562 S.E.2d 783 (Ga. Ct. App. 2002); Clemente v. Blumenberg, et al., 183 Misc.3d 923, 705 N.Y.S.2d 792 (1999); Mattek v. White, 695 So. 2d 942 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist., 1997); Salerno v. Tudor, 2002 W.L. 120608 (Cal. Ct. App. 2002); Schultz v. Wells, 13 P.3d 846 (Colo. App. 2000); Smelser v. Norfolk So. Rywy. Co., 105 F.3d 299 (6th Dist.), cert. denied, 118 S.Ct. 67, 139 L. Ed. 2d 29 (1997; Suanez v. Egland, 801 A.2d 1186 (N.J. Super. 202); Titsworth v. Robinson, 252 Va. 151, 475 S.E.2d 261 (Va. 1996); Whiting v. Coultrip, 755 N.E.2d 494 (Ill. App. 2001).
Finally, it is also important to note that most defense biomechanical experts are professional witnesses and are particularly adept at deceiving juries into accepting their theories. Thus, a Defendant's attempt to introduce testimony from a biomechanical expert in any auto accident injury case should be strongly opposed. The experienced lawyers at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. have strongly and successfully fought to preclude this type of testimony from being introduced in auto accident cases.
For more information on your legal rights after a Michigan auto accident, call us at (800) 606-1717 to speak with an experienced car accident attorney. Our office will start working on your case immediately and begin gathering the witness statements and evidence to prove and win your case.
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