Jeff Dobbelmann was a big, likable stockbroker - he stood 6'5? and was 270 pounds. And he seemed to be completely unharmed when another car rear-ended him. He had no apparent injuries, and the damage to his car was nothing more than a dented bumper.
But in the weeks and months that followed, Dobbelmann began experiencing pain - neck pain, back pain, and frequent headaches. Could this pain possibly be the result of his “minor” fender-bender?
Yes, it could. Dobbelmann suffered what’s known as a “soft tissue” injury. A soft tissue injury means damage to a muscle, ligament or tendon in the body.
These injuries are not always easy to see or diagnose. There is often no obvious bleeding or bruising. And unlike damage to bones or organs, soft tissue injuries usually don’t show up clearly on an x-ray or an MRI.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. They can cause persistent pain in the neck, back, shoulders, or joints, as well as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating or swallowing.
Many people don’t realize that these symptoms are the result of a car crash or other accident. For one thing, the symptoms often don’t develop until some time has passed after the crash. Because the symptoms don’t show up right away, people don’t necessarily make the connection.
Many people also find it hard to believe that a “minor” rear-ender can cause serious pain. But just because there was little or no damage to your car doesn’t mean there was little or no damage to your body. Your metal bumper is specifically designed to absorb sudden, jolting movements, but your joints and tendons don’t have the same kind of protection.
Even a low-speed “bump” can potentially cause muscle strains and tears, ligament sprains, tendonitis, bursitis, deep muscle bruises or contusions, joint dislocations, or nerve damage.
Car accidents are not the only causes of soft-tissue injury. These injuries can also happen as the result of slipping and falling, a sports injury, an assault, a work accident, or even just repetitive motions at work over time.
If you have this type of pain, it’s good to talk with an attorney. An attorney - perhaps working with an orthopedist, neurologist, or physical therapist - may be able to pinpoint the cause of the problem, and seek compensation if appropriate.
In Jeff Dobbelmann’s case, a Minnesota jury found in his favor and awarded him compensation for all his medical expenses, plus a substantial award for his pain and suffering.