The experts at Consumer Reports have determined that cars often provide inadequate protection against injuries, especially whiplash, during rear-end crashes. Fortunately, there are several things drivers and passengers can do to make sure they are using their head restraints as effectively as possible.

Rear-end collisions occur when one vehicle is hit by another from behind. Injuries can arise from a rear-end crash at as little as 10 miles per hour. Victims of a rear-end crash are especially susceptible to neck injuries like whiplash because the torso is pushed violently forward then backward into the seat and head restraint. If these safety features are not properly adjusted or inadequate, severe injuries may result.

Whiplash: A Common Rear-End Crash Injury

Whiplash and other neck injuries are common consequences of rear-end crashes. In fact, rear-end crashes account for 85 percent of all motor vehicle accident-related neck injuries. The whip-like movement of the body during a rear-end impact hyperextends the neck and can injure nerves and ligaments in the neck and torso. Sometimes, these injuries are significant enough to cause chronic pain.

Due to the geometry between torso, head, seatback and head restraint, tall people and women are more likely to suffer from whiplash and other neck injuries in a rear-end crash.

Many Cars Provide Inadequate Protection Against Whiplash

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that in 2005, almost half of all motor vehicle head restraints rated Poor and only 12 percent were considered Good. Five years later, only three percent were considered Poor and 69 percent Good.

Effective head restraints are only one factor in the safety equation, however. Seatbacks play a crucial role in absorbing energy in the event of a crash. If seatbacks are too stiff, car occupants may bounce off the seat, increasing the risk of injury.

Failure to provide adequate safety equipment in vehicles can leave manufacturers vulnerable to liability lawsuits. Those injured in rear-end crashes may be able to claim inadequate or faulty head restraints or seatbacks caused their injuries. Plaintiffs may cite flaws in restraint and seatback design and show they were using the safety devices for their intended use to prove the auto manufacturer should be held responsible for their injuries.

Adjust Head Restraints for Better Protection

Fortunately, car occupants have some control over the effectiveness of head restraints. Drivers and passengers should always adjust their head restraints before traveling. Often people leave head restraints too low, rendering them ineffective in a motor vehicle crash. Ideal positioning places the top of the restraint at least in line with the tops of the occupant’s ears and leaves three or fewer inches between the back of the occupant’s head and the restraint.

In addition, when shopping for a vehicle, consumers should be sure the cars they are considering have some give in the shoulder area of the seatbacks to make sure seats will be effective in a crash.

Rear-end crashes can cause chronic pain and injury in victims. If you or a loved one has been injured in a rear-end crash and believe head restraints or seatbacks are to blame, please consult an experienced personal injury attorney to explore your legal options.

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