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What is A Delta-V in a Car Accident?

A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that car accident fatalities hit a 16-year high in the United States in 2021. If you or your loved one is involved in a crash, you need to know how to protect your rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation through a car accident injury claim. One of the concepts to litigating a car accident claim is Delta-V—a scientific formula used to help determine the severity of a crash. In this article, our Oakland car accident attorneys provide an overview of the key things to understand about Delta-V in auto accident claims.

Delta-V in Car Accidents Explained

Delta-V is a “change in velocity between pre-collision and post-collision trajectories of a vehicle.” In other words, Delta-V is a way to measure the force exerted within the vehicle when a collision or accident is taking place.

In the United States, Delta-V has been used as a tool to measure the severity of car accidents for several decades. Some researchers have noted that it is the best predictor of the severity of a collision. However, other factors are relevant too, such as whether the driver or passenger hit any part of their body within the vehicle or whether they had a pre-existing condition making them more susceptible to injury. All factors must be considered in determining and explaining how an injury was caused.

In a contested car accident claim, an accident reconstruction expert or biomechanical engineer may be brought in to help testify to the cause or severity of the collision. As part of the analysis, the experts may calculate the Delta-V of each vehicle. It is not the only factor in determining the severity of a crash, however.

The Severity of a Crash Can Affect a Personal Injury Claim

In California, injured victims have a right to pursue compensation for economic and non-economic damages. The extent of your financial recovery will depend on the specific nature of your injuries. Notably, your injuries—including your pain and suffering—may be affected by the severity of your crash. Delta-V is just one metric that is used to determine the severity of the crash, and it is not alone dispositive as to the nature or severity of an injury. It is one piece of the puzzle.

Notably, a severe injury can result from a relatively low Delta-V, especially in the case of concussions. This is where a biomechanical engineer or accident reconstructionist expert may be useful. Also, a neurologist can explain to the jury how a severe brain injury (for example, a persistent concussion) can sometimes occur in accidents with a relatively low Delta-V. The more we know about brain science, the less a Delta-V is reliable as a stand-alone predictor of the severity of an injury.

A defendant or insurer may try to downplay the severity of a crash to limit your recovery. They may use a Delta-V calculation in a vacuum to try to explain away or deny your injury. Following an accident, an experienced Bay Area car crash lawyer can help you gather all the information and expert analysis that you need to prove liability and the severity of your damages. This will put you in the best position to maximize your verdict or settlement offer to be made whole.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Car Accident Lawyer in the Bay Area

At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our Oakland car accident attorneys are standing by, ready to take action to protect your rights. If you have any specific questions or concerns about the Delta-V metric used in car accidents, we are ready to help. Give us a call at 415.835.6777 now or connect with us for a free initial consultation. Our firm provides car accident injury representation throughout the Bay Area, including in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, and beyond.