HOW INSURANCE CARRIERS DEAL WITH MINOR IMPACT SOFT TISSUE CASES - Personal Injury Legal Blogs Posted by Matthew A. Dolman, Esq. - Lawyers.com

HOW INSURANCE CARRIERS DEAL WITH MINOR IMPACT SOFT TISSUE CASES

When you hear of a minor
fender bender and one of the parties claims they’re experiencing
whiplash, what’s your first thought? For many people the answer is,
“That guy’s faking it.” Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MIST (Minor
Impact Soft Tissue) cases and the propaganda behind such.

MIST stands for “minor impact soft tissue.”
Launched in the mid 90s by US automobile insurance providers, the
theory claims that it’s impossible to sustain a permanent or serious
injury in a low-property damage or low speed collision. Almost all
American insurers have adopted this theory, but there is very little
scientific evidence to validate this claim. The studies that refuted the
existence of late whiplash or other injuries were plagued with poor
methodology, according to a 2005 study by CJ Centeno, M Freeman, and WL
Elkins.

MIST relies on the idea that the visible damage of the vehicles and
occupant are closely linked. The fundamental assertion is that there is a
linear relationship between the intensity of the impact, based on the
change in velocity) and the rate of serious injury. However, the review
showed that variables such as stiffness and elasticity of vehicles, the
interplay between seat design, occupant mass, occupant position and
vehicle dynamics are not taken into account by MIST. This means that
there are serious issues with the MIST methodology. In a study by M
Krafft, et. al. demonstrated that injuries occuring at 15 and 13 x g (or
15 and 13 times gravity) had serious neck injuries, but were not the
highest changes in velocity. In the end this leads to the conclusion
that there is no direct correlation between a change in velocity and the
risk of injury, a fundamental assertion of MIST.

For some patients, whiplash is a complex condition, that is not
sufficiently classified by modern medicine. Studies show that persons
who experienced long term whiplash were more likely for future problems,
including:

160-370% increase in risk for headache,
thoracic and low back pain, fatigue or other sleep issues, relative to
others involved in rear-end crashes

Over a span of 15.5 years, 70% of patients followed continued to report symptoms relating to the original crash

Between years 10 and 15.5, only 18%
reported improvement, while 28% reported a worsening state. This is
relative to the 54% that stayed the same

Authors Centeno, Freeman, and Elkins propose that MIST is outdated
and that its time has come. They recommend a method that uses a
research-based severity index to allow insurers to better allocate
resources. Sadly, to this author’s knowledge, insurers have not adopted
this proposal.

A 2007 investigation by CNN seems to identify the reason why the MIST
system remains in place. According to their investigation, MIST allows
insurers to claim that persons were not actually injured, in an effort
to delay or deny claims.

When MIST cases do go to trial, insurers use photos from the incident
to convince the jury about the severity of the impact and assert a
“causation” defense.  In other words, did the accident cause the very
injuries the client complains of.

CNN contacted three jurors in their example case. In the example, the
jurors awarded substantially lower damages to the plaintiff than she
sought. The jurors stated that the slight damage to the vehicles,
demonstrated by pictures, impacted their award to the plaintiff. Experts
in these types of accidents, interviewed by CNN, claimed that jurors
expect that the injuries suffered by the plaintiff to be commensurate to
those of the vehicle.

The problem is that the plaintiff is then being judged by what the
car looks like or the extent of the impact rather than the real issue,
the injury to the plaintiff. This attempt to confuse and mislead the
jury is generally successful because judges fail to realize the lack of
probative value from these photos. In essence the insurers argue that
there was no correlation between the accident and the injury sustained.
 Further, the insurance carriers apply the same cookie cutter approach
to all cases.  In essence, you have adjusters formulating an opinion
without actually knowing the first thing about the victim’s alleged
injury.   We often receive letters from insurance carriers discussing
the minor impact without inquiring as to the nature and extent of the
physical injuries.

Insurers take this philosophy a step further by researching the
personal history of the injured person. When claims are taken to trial,
the injured party is indicted with any number of past injuries, no
matter how minor. Insurers call into question whether THIS accident was
responsible for THIS injury by making out the plaintiff as a fraudster.

Proponents of MIST claim, without proof, that this methodology lowers
premium costs for all insurance subscribers. However, the most
substantial financial impact appears to be the cost of litigation.
Plaintiffs who are substantially injured have little to gain where a
jury is unlikely to believe their claims, even when injuries are
sustained. In the end, it is up to the legal system and legislators to
make changes to disallow this behavior, that one observer interviewed by
CNN claimed was a, “System of Bad Faith.”

Matthew A. Dolman, Esq, is a Clearwater personal injury attorney.  For more information on MIST cases, call us today for a free consultation and case evaluation with our Florida injury law attorneys 

When you hear of a minor
fender bender and one of the parties claims they’re experiencing
whiplash, what’s your first thought? For many people the answer is,
“That guy’s faking it.” Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MIST (Minor
Impact Soft Tissue) cases and the propaganda behind such.

View Attorney Profile

Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

Licensed since 2004

Member at firm Dolman Law Group

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