Biomechanics of a Car Accident

Posted: April 17, 2023

What is biomechanics, and what does it have to do with car accidents?  

Biomechanics is the “study of the action of external and internal forces on the living body, especially on the skeletal system,” according to  

Understanding Biomechanics for Crash Injuries 

In an article published in the Singapore Medical Journal, a clinician explains that whether a car is hit from the front, back, or side can affect the injuries occupants suffer and even their odds of survival:  

  • When the impact in a crash is to the front of a car, the “transmission of energy will strain the lower limb at its weakest point, which can be the [occupant’s] ankle, knee, femur or hip,” the article observes.  
  • When the impact is to the vehicle’s rear, those inside are at greater risk of whiplash.  
  • And when the impact is from the side, brain injury and death are more likely among occupants.  

All of this is attributable to the mass and speed of the collision. 

Common Injuries 

Seatbelts and airbags save lives. According to government statistics, seat belt use saved nearly 330,000 lives between 1960 and 2012. Someone who wears a seatbelt in a motor vehicle reduces his or her odds of fatal injury by 50 percent.  


The most common seatbelt injury, according to research, is the clavicle fracture. This injury is common in front- and side-impact crashes.  


Mild head and/or neck injuries sometimes result from an occupant’s impact with deployed airbags.  


In the United States in 2020, 6,516 pedestrians were killed, and about 55,000 were injured in run-ins with cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  


Biomechanics helps us understand these accidents, too. A pedestrian struck by a car typically impacts three things, in this order: 

  1. The car’s bumper, which can injure the legs 
  2. The car’s hood and windscreen, which can injure the chest and abdomen 
  3. The ground, which can injure the head and neck.  

Impact Biomechanics 

The goal of impact biomechanics is to protect car occupants from serious injury in a crash.  

Biomechanics research is based on the “principles of mechanics and an understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of the human system,” according to the National Academy of Engineering 


The four basic areas of research in impact biomechanics are: 

  • Injury mechanisms: Understanding how an injury, such as whiplash, occurs so that we can find a way to prevent it.  
  • Mechanical response: Crash dummies are created by safety engineers to see what parts of the body are likely to be injured in a crash.  
  • Human tolerance: Elderly people, women, and children may be less protected by certain safety precautions because crash dummies used during testing procedures may not accurately represent human tolerance for injury.  
  • Simulation of human impact: Crash dummies are used to test safety systems in vehicles. 

According to the National Academy of Engineering, cadavers and animals are used in the first three areas of research, but the results vary. This is because cadavers lack muscular response, and data comparing animals to humans has errors.  

Examples of Biomechanical Research Relating to Motor Vehicle Crashes 

NHTSA’s crash-test dummies, formally known as Anthropomorphic Test Devices (ATDs), are used to help scientists assess human movement during and following a car crash.  


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, there were 64,362 TBI-related fatalities in the United States in 2020. That’s about 176 deaths per day. To address this issue, NHTSA developed a Brain Injury Criterion (BrIC). 


In NHTSA’s Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN), trauma physicians and experts in the fields of impact biomechanics and mechanical engineering determine the cause of injuries.


For example, observations from crashes in CIREN and the NHTSA’s National Automotive Sampling System- Crashworthiness Data System have found an “increased incidence of lower spine fractures of restrained occupants in frontal crashes involving newer passenger vehicles.” This suggests the injury for many of these fractures is more “compression than flexion,” according to NHTSA 


See more about its crash-injury research here. 

Accident Reconstructions    

Accident reconstruction can recreate how a crash happened, which helps us to better understand how and why an accident takes place. It can also help determine liability, which is a critical consideration when determining how to achieve maximum compensation for your injuries. 


If you were seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash and want to bring a personal injury case, evidence pertaining to your case may include photographs of the accident scene and vehicle damage, statements or testimony from witnesses, and official records such as a police report.  


An experienced New York personal injury attorney can retain an expert to help investigate the causes of a car accident, which can include seeking any available surveillance footage, obtaining witness statements, and downloading black box, or “event data recorder,” data from involved vehicles. 


A black box gathers information before, during and after a crash. In the event of a crash, this device can record crucial information about the vehicle prior to the crash, including vehicle speed, steering angles, tilt of the vehicle, throttle position, brakes application, force of impact, airbag deployment times, and use of a seatbelt. 

Hurt in a Car? Call William Mattar. 

We have more than two decades of experience helping car crash victims throughout the state of New York. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. today by calling (844) 444-4444 or completing a free initial consultation form. 

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