Biomechanical Engineering – Not Just Low Speed MVA’s

In the world of insurance claims and civil litigation, when one hears Biomechanical Engineering very often the mind leaps immediately to terms like Delta V, C4 vertebrae and preexisting condition and that’s where it stays. Basically, with biomechanical engineering, one thinks of Low Speed Accidents and the resulting injuries, claims and law suits that they bring. Yes, the discipline of biomechanical engineering can be very useful in determining what happened and to what extent, in these accidents. But, limiting the use of biomechanics to MVA investigations could be a serious mistake.

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Biomechanical Engineering is a bioengineering sub discipline which applies principles of mechanical engineering to biological systems. 

What does this mean?

Well, right off the bat, your biomechanical expert is first and foremost a mechanical engineer.  Their title may say “Biomechanical engineer” but if you look at their CV you’ll probably see they have a BS, an MS and very possibly a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Therefore, all the cases you would normally look to a mechanical engineer for assistance, for example equipment accidents and product failures, could be equally as appropriate for biomechanical engineers.   Just because a biomechanical engineer knows how to determine the forces necessary to fracture a femur doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten how gears, levers and switches operate. What are those “biological systems” mentioned in the definition?  Those “systems” are humans, people.  Many, if not most, of the accidents which engineers are called to investigate involve people.  The unique insight and expertise a biomechanical engineer can bring to many product liability cases can be very powerful.  Here are two specific illustrations where the knowledge of a biomechanical engineer can provide great value.

Video Analysis:  It’s become more and more common for incidents to be captured by surveillance cameras.  Some think this negates the need for experts, but often it highlights their worth.  A customer falls in a store, but was it a trip a slip or a misstep?  Answering the simple question could make the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Many biomechanical engineers have studied and are experts on the human gait.  By analyzing the video and evaluating things such as the walk, the step, the stride and the pace they may be able to determine what type of fall occurred and if and when the individual suffering the fall may have been aware of potential hazards.  By studying the video and the medical records, the biomechanical engineer may also be able to ascertain whether the injuries claimed to have been sustained in the fall are consistent with the injury mechanisms that would have been present.

Building Code Insight:  The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) has profoundly affected the nations building codes.  Buildings must not only be structurally sound, but they must be built with human interaction and usage in mind.  Dimensions such as railing height, tread depth, riser height and door width are all prescribed based on how the human body reacts to, and interacts with, its environment.  Thus, when investigating an incident, a biomechanical engineer can not only determine if the site where an accident occurred is up to code or not, but they can also opine on the reasons the codes are what they are and whether or not any code deficiencies may have contributed to the accident.  This adds a powerful dimension to an experts report.Yes, biomechanical engineers are essential when investigating low speed accidents but their value goes far beyond determining injuries in MVAs.  Seeking their insight and assistance when examining a vast array of incidents can be very beneficial.For more information on CED experts please contact one of our case managers at casemanager@cedtechnologies.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on the web at www.cedtechnologies.com.

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