By Logan Quirk
MIST cases are often the most difficult collision cases to handle. Some personal injury attorneys avoid them like the plague! These cases often involve tough negotiations with the insurance company even though there’s no doubt their client is at fault or that the pain the collision caused is real. Unlike other types of personal injury cases, those involving soft tissue injuries often go to court. An attorney must work against the odds to get a fair settlement for their client’s injuries.
What Is a Moderate Impact Soft Tissue Injury?
A MIST injury is one to the soft tissue that results from a mild to moderate impact. Unlike severe injuries to the outside of the body, these injuries occur below the surface. After a car wreck, the injured person might not feel any pain for days. To further complicate things, soft tissue injuries don’t always show up on X-rays or some other types of imaging equipment. A lawyer has difficulty proving injuries that no one can see.
Two criteria make a case a MIST case. One is that there is negligible damage to the vehicles involved. That means minor physical damage like you would get from a bump to the rear end of another vehicle going a rather slow speed. The second criteria is that there is no detectable injury to the victim. They feel the pain but there’s nothing visible to prove that the injury ever happened.
One of the most well-known types of MIST injuries is whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury that most often occurs from the force of a rear-end car accident. When one driver runs into the back of another, the force causes the neck of the driver in front to move rapidly back and forth.
Whiplash causes multiple symptoms including neck pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and headaches. Many cases of whiplash respond well to treatment while others experience chronic pain and complications that last a long time. Like many other MIST injuries, whiplash doesn’t always show any symptoms right away. Over the course of 24 hours, neck pain and stiffness set in. Someone suffering from whiplash might feel more severe pain when they move their neck.
Sometimes whiplash causes symptoms of tingling or numbness in the arms, tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms. Less common signs include blurred vision, irritability, problems concentrating, and ringing in the ears. They might also experience memory problems or depression. People whose symptoms begin quickly and intensely are more likely to have chronic pain as a result of their soft tissue injuries.
Types of Moderate Impact Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue makes up a large portion of the human body. It includes the muscles, ligaments, fat, fibrous tissue, and more. Unlike bones that break under pressure, soft tissue is vulnerable to different types of injuries. Some types of soft tissue injuries include:
Sprains– A sprain is the stretching and/or tearing of a ligament. This type of connective tissue holds two bones together in a joint. Most sprains occur to the knees, ankles, or wrists. When they occur, they cause pain and impair your ability to move. There are three grades of strains including…
- Grade 1 or Mild – Only minor stretching with minimal damage to the ligament fibers
- Grade 2 or Moderate – Partial tearing of the ligament resulting in looseness of the joint when moved in certain ways
- Grade 3 or Severe – A complete tear of the ligament which causes significant instability and prevents functioning of the joint
Strains – A strain is an injury to the fibrous tissue that attaches muscles to bone. The leg, foot, and back are common areas for strains. Like sprains, strains range from minor stretching to complete tears in the tissue. Symptoms of strains include pain, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, swelling, inflammation, and cramps.
Contusions – Contusions are bruises caused by a direct blow to the skin. Sometimes they crush the muscle fibers and connective tissue beneath without breaking the skin. Often, contusions happen at the knees, ankles, wrists, and shoulders. They often result from motor vehicle crashes, as well as slip and fall accidents and more harmful incidents.
Long-Term Effects of Untreated MIST Injuries
Failing to treat any of these types of soft tissue injuries can lead to more serious injuries. Severe contusions might indicate internal damage that requires immediate treatment. Severe strains and sprains might lead to permanent damage if left to heal improperly. Anyone who experiences swelling, stiffness, or pain after a mild to moderate impact wreck should always see a medical professional right away. Getting treatment should be their first priority. Seeing a personal injury attorney who is willing to take on the challenges of a MIST case should be their second one.
The Role of Auto Insurance in Paying MIST Cases
During the mid-nineties, auto insurance companies began adopting stringent practices dealing with MIST cases. The refused to pay for medical expenses in connection with the injured person’s recovery. The problem is that although the companies dismissed these injuries as being insignificant and unprovable, they often caused excessive pain and impacted the nerves, muscles, and even the inner ear. From that point on, anyone who chose to challenge an insurance company in one of these cases knew and accepted the uphill battle that followed. It isn’t just drivers who are at risk either. Passengers are also vulnerable to getting MIST injuries.
At some point during any MIST case, an attorney comes up against Colossus. This is the computer program used by insurance companies to make personal injury case assessments. Colossus is highly controversial since the system manipulates the numbers to reach a result that favors the insurance company. The supposed idea behind the system is to minimize payout variance. The reality is that it reduces the amount insurers pay out for insurance claims.
The implementation of Colossus has led to a reduction in the settlement value of personal injury claims across the board. One reason that Colossus has such a significant impact on MIST cases is that it can’t accurately value a person’s pain and suffering. The lack of tangible proof of soft tissue injuries makes it even more difficult to prove your case when pain and suffering are the largest components of a personal injury case. The computer system lacks the ability to acknowledge the differences between people and the injuries that make each case unique.
Colossus also stores data on attorneys who frequently represent personal injury clients. This is another reason people should research attorneys to find someone with a successful history of representing MIST clients to handle their MIST case.
Do You Have a MIST Case?
The first step in any personal injury case is in proving liability. Someone’s negligence or deliberate act made them the at-fault party. They are the ones who must pay compensation to the injured party. Attorneys often have no problem with this step, especially when it involves a hit from behind. When a driver rear-ends another one, it is almost always considered the fault of the driver in the rear.
In California, the “comparative negligence” doctrine lets juries determine whether both parties are at fault and to what degree. For example, if the driver in front failed to give a signal before turning, the courts might give them 10% of the fault for getting rear-ended. That means they can only receive 90% of the compensation allowed.
Even in those cases where both drivers share fault, this isn’t the area of a MIST case that makes it challenging. It is the second step where a lawyer must prove the severity of their client’s injury and prove that the incident caused it.
Soft tissue injuries are often undetectable except to the person who has them. The injured party doesn’t always realize they’ve been injured immediately. Once the pain, stiffness, and other symptoms surface, they may have already damaged their case. For example, they might have told the at-fault driver that they were fine at the scene. With nothing or little to present to the court as proof, attorneys often have difficulty getting a fair settlement for their client.
How Serious Are Soft Tissue Injuries?
We tend to think of injuries to the bones as much more severe than those to soft tissue. The skeletal structure is what holds our bodies together and gives us movement. The strength of the bones somehow makes a fracture seem more traumatic.
Soft tissues can have a serious impact on the functions of the body. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons support the skeletal system and allow movement. One of the best examples of a serious soft tissue injury is whiplash. Attorneys like to pass it off as nothing more than a sore neck that will go away on its own. But the most severe cases can cause nausea, vertigo, and/or vomiting. Whiplash can even cause injuries to the brain, which causes lifelong pain and other complications.
Winning Your MIST Case
It’s often the injured party who gives up on their MIST case without a fight. Many of them underestimate the severity of their injuries. Those who file a claim and receive a denial might begin to doubt themselves. Insurance companies are very persuasive at making claimants believe the injuries they say happened during a low to moderate impact incident are impossible.
Insurance companies base their assessment of the victim’s injuries along with the damage to the automobile. Insurance payers operate on the erroneous belief that vehicle damage is proportionate to the potential injuries sustained. In other words, when a person’s car receives a few hundred dollars’ worth of damage to the rear bumper, the driver couldn’t possibly have a severe injury that requires extensive medical treatment. Their letters denying claims reflect this belief and often challenge the person to prove otherwise.
Man Against the Machine
The bottom line for insurance companies is paying the least amount possible. Although they rely on machines to determine fair payee amounts, they are the ones feeding the numbers into the system. Their interests aren’t in doing what’s right for the individual. In many cases, saving the company money results in big bonuses to the insurance agent. Getting more money in their pocket is an incentive to keep from paying to the victim who deserves it.
The Department of Transportation estimates that more than 80% of all collisions occur at under 20 mph. Paying fair compensation for all the victims in these cases would result in a massive reduction in their profits. Having a computer system that spits out reports to favor their side of the argument shouldn’t be enough to deter an attorney or their client. The research proving that these injuries are serious is out there. Nothing produces better evidence than research or records from other people who had the same experience.
When a client has past neck or back issues, it only makes the case more difficult to prove for attorneys. The insurance company will point to the previous problems as the source of any current pain. Attorneys can use the client’s lack of past claims or lawsuits to argue in their favor. Even those who do have past claims probably have long periods without any complaints. This type of evidence helps prove the association between a new injury and the recent incident that caused it. A similar injury isn’t the same thing as re-injuring the same area. Even if it is a re-injury, it was the recent incident that caused the pain and any new symptoms.
Another good argument for attorneys is the changes in how today’s vehicles are made. Modern vehicles are designed to take an impact with minimal damage or injuries to the occupants. Increasingly, courts are excluding evidence based on photos of vehicle damage and repair costs for this reason.
Always report a car accident regardless of how minor. Even those which cause minimal damage might turn into something more serious later on. Even if no one appears injured at the accident scene, someone in either vehicle might experience symptoms hours after the accident occurs.
If you think you have a valid MIST case, contact Quirk Law Group for a case evaluation. We’re always happy to talk with you about your personal injury case and help you get the same awesome results that we’ve gotten for many of our clients.