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.
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.
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