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 8 "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 - Trial Guides

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. This 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 - Trial Guides

The Elements of Trial

It is clear that you can’t get good settlement offers without going to trial. With trial experience increasingly rare, The Elements of Trial provides a concise guide for lawyers preparing for trial. 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 - Trial Guides

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 is 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 - Trial Guides

Polarizing the Case: Exposing & Defeating the Malingering Myth

Two of the most common defenses in motor vehicles 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 on whether they are claiming your client is a liar.

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Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries: A Guide for Patients and Practitioners - Trial Guides

Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries: A Guide for Patients and Practitioners

Handling motor vehicle cases can involve a variety of topics including medicine, injury causation, epidemiology, crash reconstruction, biomechanics and many issues surrounding insurance claims practices. In Dr. Arthur Croft’s most recent book, he addresses a number of these topics, dispels myths of motor vehicle crashes, and provides lawyers with the research citations to create a killer cross examination on defense witnesses.

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Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Fourth Edition - Trial Guides

Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Fourth Edition

This two-book set provides you comprehensive advice on every aspect of a personal injury case, from the nation’s leading lawyers, trial consultants, and doctors. The set provides practical skills on case intake, claim handling, negotiations, and each section of trial, along with inspirational chapters from America’s leading trial lawyers, including Gerry Spence, Mark Lanier, and John Romano.

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Exposing Deceptive Defense Doctors

Perhaps the greatest challenge in a motor vehicle case is dealing with alternative 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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AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment

Fifth Edition

AMA permanent impairment ratings are the second largest driver of non-economic damages in motor vehicle settlements (second only to the injury diagnoses). Permanent impairment is also known to cause future diminished earning capacity for your economic damages claim. Despite these reports substantiating both economic and non-economic damages, few lawyers request an AMA impairment rating report on their cases. The result is that these lawyers, and their clients, often don’t get the money that the client deserves. 

The AMA Guides is the standard of care for determining permanent impairment. Owning the book, and reviewing the ways in which permanent impairment ratings are determined, allows you to understand when a client has an injury or symptoms that result in a permanent impairment rating, so that clients can be referred for an impairment rating examination. Secondarily, the book is very helpful during cross examination to demonstrate to the jury that the defense doctor failed to follow the standard of care when they determined your client had no permanent impairment.

Please note: We do not recommend the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition, both because auto insurers continue to use the 5th Edition, and because the 6th Edition is sufficiently controversial and flawed, that it should not be admissible in trial.

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