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Low velocity (LVI), Delta-v and causation

Low velocity (LVI), Delta-v and causation

As the 10th anniversary of the landmark decision in the case of Armstrong –v- First York (2005 EWCA Civ 277) approaches, what now for causation, Delta-V & LVI?

Armstrong –v- First York was a ground breaking case about low velocity impact and causation.  Joe Armstrong and his partner Nicola Connor were driver and passenger respectively in a Ford Fiesta motor car. They had the misfortune of being involved in a rear end shunt type accident when travelling to York for the weekend with a bus owned by the Defendant company. What set this case apart was quite simply this – the Bus company whilst admitting blame said that the impact was at such a low velocity their negligence could not possibly have caused any injury to anyone. In furtherance of this Defence they relied upon expert engineering evidence from Mr Childs who was an extremely experienced forensic engineer. By all accounts this was a very minor accident.   The physical damage to the car was slight being a 5 inch long scratch that was about 200 microns deep (about twice the depth of the paint covering the car).  Both Claimants gave compelling and faultless evidence stating that although the impact had been slight they had as a result suffered some injury.

The Trial Judge, HHJ Stewart QC hearing the case on first instance was impressed with their evidence.  But how could he reconcile the Claimants evidence with an equally impressive expert who concluded the impact was so slight as to make injury impossible?   In the end HHJ Stewart QC held in favour of Mr Armstrong & Miss Connor. He carefully considered all evidence, but as he felt the witnesses were believable he went in their favour reasoning that the expert may have missed something of relevance. The Defendant appealed. On appeal their Lordships also sided with the Claimants. Quoting from the case of Liddell v Middleton [1996] PIQR P36 - “We do not have trial by expert in this country; we have trial by judge." This decision was groundbreaking since it was the first time the Courts had had to consider causation of injuries when a road traffic accident happened at very low speed in the face of equally impressive expert evidence.  

Subsequent cases followed that gave practitioners guidance on how to tackle such issues being the appeal decisions in the cases of Kearsley –v- Klarfeld (2005) EWCA Civ 1510 & Casey –v- Cartright  (2006) ECWA Civ 1280. What all of these cases have in common is simply this – causation.

“Causation” is the legal term used to describe the link between one event and another.  When describing injury claims these are often considered in terms of one action causing another so that a “chain of events” unfolds. Arguments about whether an impact was of such a low velocity that no injury could occur is placing “causation” into dispute in the case ie it makes the Claimant have to prove the accident caused the injury complained of, and this becomes central to the case.   

Frequently you see reference to “Delta-V.” Delta-V is the transference of energy from one object to another. Compensating insurers through their appointed expert engineers will sometimes argue that insufficient energy has transferred from the at fault vehicle to the injured parties vehicle. Sometimes this energy transfer is so slight as being comparable to being struck when in a dodgem car at a fairground.   They reason that if the energy transfer was so slight, how come injury was suffered?

The reality is that accidents can happen at any speed. Insurers don’t like dealing with injury claims where the accident caused very little damage to the vehicles involved, reasoning rightly or wrongly that if the property damage is slight, then there must be no injury suffered to occupants of the vehicles. But at what speed and at what level of damage do you place the cut off point? Is there a speed below which it is impossible to suffer injury? Is there a level of property damage below which there can be no injury? The answer to both questions it seems is no.

 All insurers have in place sophisticated systems for vetting accident claims in an effort to ascertain whether the claim may be bogus or fraudulent. At a very base level, one of the factors is whether the level of damage to the vehicles involved, or speed of collision gives any cause for concern. If it does then the case is “flagged” for more detailed enquiry. In many cases this means the insurer is now treating the claim not as a genuine injury claim that they want to resolve, but as a potential fraud that they do not want to settle by making any payment to the Claimant. This will almost certainly mean from the Claimants point of view that the case will be delayed whilst background checks are made as to the Claimants character and the integrity of the claim.  

Here at Optimal Claim, we are committed to recovering the optimal level of damages for all our clients. We know that just because an accident happens at low speed or with very little damage to property that does not mean no injury was suffered. And because we speak your language we know how best to present your case.
Claiming through Optimal Claim carries a genuine “no-win, no-fee” guarantee. Should you lose your claim then we do not charge. Moreover, we are more than happy to discuss prospective cases with you free of charge and without any obligation.

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