Handling "Minor Impact" Motor Vehicle Cases

Starting in the 1990s, auto insurance companies started denying motor vehicle claims with small amounts of visible vehicle damage and pushing lawyers to take them to trial.  Some insurers refer to these as “minor impact” or “Minor Impact Soft Tissue” (“MIST”) cases. As you can read in From "Good Hands" to Boxing Gloves, insurers started spending more to defend these cases than the case was worth, simply in order to disincentivize lawyers to accept the cases. Over time insurers have been successful in getting many lawyers to reject these cases rather than try them, dramatically reducing the number of tort claims filed and causing auto claim values to plummet.  To establish your willingness to go to trial on tough cases, resulting in higher settlement offers on your other cases, you need to try these cases or work with trial counsel.

There are a number of issues that become more important in these cases than a normal auto case, including the impact of Direct Referral Program agreements between the insurers and auto body shops that artificially decrease vehicle damage, negligent vehicle damage repairs that undervalue vehicle damage and fail to detect frame damage, peak acceleration of the client versus mean acceleration of the vehicle, motions to exclude junk science offered by defense biomechanists and accident reconstructionists, the lack of correlation between vehicle damage and occupant damage, medical literature on chronic pain after spinal trauma, and much more. 

Top 10 "Minor Impact" Resources for Lawyers

The list below focuses on specific skills, knowledge and methods that will help you win "minor impact" motor vehicle cases. To see all products sold by Trial Guides that relate to handling "minor impact" motor vehicle cases, please click the button at the bottom of the page.

Recommended Resources

Mastering Motor Vehicle Cases

Dr. Arthur Croft co-authored the very first medical treatise on whiplash injuries - Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome. Over the decades since that time, he has published hundreds of articles on traumatic injuries, causation, epidemiology, accident reconstruction, and the junk science often used by insurers and insurance defense experts. He brings it all together on this comprehensive video set. While this set is helpful for any motor vehicle case, the CLE from which this DVD came focused primarily on minor impact cases. In addition to Dr. Croft, the set includes a section by lawyer Aaron DeShaw on how to use the science discussed by Croft in your litigation cases, how to get claims out of the Minor Impact unit of an insurer so that you can get better settlement values, as well as how the Direct Referral Program contracts between insurers and auto body garages negatively impact bodily injury claims. This set will allow you to understand your client’s injuries better and prepare you for cross examination of the defense doctors, crash reconstructionist and biomechanist.

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The Elements of Trial

It is clear that you won’t get good settlement offers in minor impact cases without going to trial (even when your client has serious injuries). With trial experience increasingly rare, The Elements of Trial provides a concise guide for lawyers preparing for trial. It is the trial advocacy that you need – teaching you all the basics, and written by a lawyer who has successfully tried a lot of cases. Written by Rick Friedman, one of America’s leading trial lawyers, the book discusses how to do everything from investigating your case and drafting pre-trial motions, to covering every phase of the trial from voir dire to post-trial motions. The book applies to everyone needing clear instructions on how to prepare and try a civil case.

Also available as an audio book.

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David Ball on Damages 3

Widely considered “the bible” of handling plaintiff personal injury cases. David Ball on Damages 3 is the first in the trilogy of “must read” books for plaintiff lawyers and provides specific instructions on how to handle every part of a motor vehicle trial, from voir dire to closing. The 3rd (white) edition, contains substantially more information than the prior (red) edition, and is the only place where the concepts of the Rules of the Road™ method are integrated with the Reptile™ method of trying cases. Trying any type of personal injury case without reading this book first is probably malpractice.

Also available as an audio book.

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Polarizing the Case

Exposing & Defeating the Malingering Myth

Reading Polarizing the Case is critical to winning minor impact trials. Two of the most common defenses in minor impact cases are that your client is malingering (consciously faking or exaggerating symptoms) or has somatoform disorder (unconscious faking or exaggerating). Polarizing the Case teaches you how to dismantle these defenses, and how to force the defense and defense experts to take a clear position in front of the jury that your client is a liar. The book teaches you how to win these cases and provides excerpts from a real trial to demonstrate the methods discussed in the book.

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Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

A Guide for Patients and Practitioners

Thirty years ago, Dr. Arthur Croft's best selling textbook Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome was published, ushering in significant changes in the medical and scientific fields devoted to traumatic auto injuries. Dr. Croft’s most recent book—Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries—is written primarily for lawyers, and covers spinal injuries and mild traumatic brain injuries caused by a motor vehicle collision. In the book, Dr. Croft outlines the anatomy involved in spinal injuries, in terms understandable for lawyers. He also explains the mechanics of rear-end crashes, side impact crashes and head on impacts and how each of these result in different types of injuries. Croft debunks the "junk science" used by the insurers to...

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Don't Eat the Bruises

How to Foil Their Plans to Spoil Your Case

Jury bias is a serious issue in any case, but it is even more difficult in minor impact cases. Author Keith Mitnik is senior trial counsel for Morgan & Morgan, the largest personal injury law firm in America, and spends his time mentoring his firm’s younger lawyers and inventing cutting-edge courtroom strategies for cases that range from minor impact to medical malpractice and tobacco cases. Don’t Eat the Bruises reveals very practical topics for voir dire that will help you strike more jurors for cause, and set you up for winning themes that will resonate in minor impact cases.

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Working with Chiropractors on Auto Cases

A Trial Guides Webinar Recording

Approximately 50% of motor vehicle cases involve chiropractic treatment. Some lawyers worry about cases where the primary treating doctor is a chiropractor. Others get six and seven figure verdicts in cases where a chiropractor is the primary expert witness.

In this Trial Guides webinar, trial lawyer Aaron DeShaw, a former Doctor of Chiropractic, shows you how to work more effectively with chiropractors. First, he reveals a more effective way to qualify DCs to avoid motions as to qualification and win the ones that are raised. Next, he shows how to most effectively use chiropractic testimony in your arbitrations and trials. The webinar will reveal that contrary to many lawyers’, jurors’, and judges’ beliefs, chiropractic education requires equal, and sometimes superior, education to general practice MDs, especially in certain areas at issue in traumatic injury cases, such as spinal injuries, neurology, and radiology.

DeShaw also talks about where the societal bias against chiropractors arose and how to minimize its impact on your cases during voir dire and the direct examination of a doctor of chiropractic. This webinar will change your practice if you handle injury cases involving chiropractic treatment.

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Exposing Deceptive Defense Doctors

Even if you can make it past the injury causation issue in terms of the forces involved in a minor impact case, then you face additional causation arguments made by the insurance defense doctors. Author Dorothy Clay Sims is known amongst the national plaintiff bar as the go-to lawyer for dismantling defense doctors’ unsubstantiated opinions. Her book deals with the common insurance defenses, including: that all of the client’s spinal pain is due to pre-existing degeneration; that your client is exaggerating or malingering; that the crash isn’t the cause of the injury; that pre-existing psychological conditions are the cause of the symptoms; and more. The book will enable you to reveal dishonesty, bias, over-reaching, and incompetence by defense doctors in multiple specialties.

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Reptile: In the MIST (and Beyond)

The Plaintiff Attorney's Guide to the MIST-case Revolution

A derivative of the Reptile™ litigation method, this book demonstrates how a number of prominent lawyers, trial consultants and experts win in minor impact cases.

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Defeating the MIST Defense

Doctor and Forensic Epidemiologist, Michael Freeman, is one of the leading experts in the world on traumatic injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions. This video teaches you the major points you need to consider in terms of handling these claims, including how to get junk science excluded from evidence.

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Litigating Minor Impact Soft Tissue Cases

2018-2019 Edition

This seminal work by Trial Guides authors Dr. Michael Freeman and trial lawyer Karen Koehler, and rewritten by trial lawyer Bruce Hagen, was the first to address how lawyers could fight the minor impact defense. This book has legal and medical content as well as practice forms. Like most binder books, West and AAJ will have you purchase updates every year.

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