“… as experts we appreciate unusual cases and new challenges outside the box of auto accidents.” – Patrick Hannon
Experts in forensic biomechanics aim to find out whether a physical force causes injury or disruption to anatomical areas of the body. Most of the time, the focus of cases in forensic biomechanics is around traffic accidents, but some unusual cases do appear.
Research needed to be done into the legal case where a woman reported an accident in a shop when a metal bar holding rolls of carpet fell onto both of her feet. Forensic biomechanics was needed because there was no CCTV available for a legal court. The woman said that the whole carpet display had fallen onto her feet when she tried to lift a carpet roll. She was also wearing flip flops at the time of the accident.
However, evidence showed that the whole display did not fall onto her. The woman also claimed that the bar bounced off her feet, leaving a bruise on the top of her foot. However, again, audio evidence showed that the metal bar landed on her feet and did not moving, meaning that the woman had her feet flat on the floor after the bar hit her.
X-rays of the woman’s ankle and foot were taken which showed that there were no fractures, swelling, cuts of calcification (the accumulation of calcium salts seen in bone formation but can occur in soft tissue, causing soft tissue to harden resulting in pain). Doctors also found that there was no trauma to any of the woman’s ligaments, so there was damage to the woman’s bone to joint which could’ve cause her mobility issues. Despite this, there was a small bruise on the top of her foot in between her mid-toes which would be consistent with the metal bar falling onto her barefoot.
Contrary to this, weeks after the accident, the woman was diagnosed with chronic lateral ankle laxity of two ligaments. This means that she had abnormal looseness around her ankle, resulting in mobility issues when she tried to walk. The woman did say to the doctors that she had suffered ankle sprains in her childhood but did not suffer from any foot trauma ever since. However, after being prescribed with physical therapy to her ankle, she had said that she suffered a broken right ankle years before the accident in the shop. Doctors also found a nonunion bone fragment at the bottom of the right foot, meaning that an extra piece of bone within the foot area could be the cause of pain when she walked.
Taking all of this evidence into account, forensic biomechanics experts concluded that the drop of the metal bar to the woman’s feet would not have caused enough damage to result in the injuries to her feet. It could be said that the woman’s reaction to the drop onto her foot could have caused the injuries to become more severe, but experts have said that the reflex actions that would’ve occurred would not have resulted in the ankle injuries.
This case shows that forensic science is used in our daily lives, even if we don’t realise it. Here, it has concluded that longstanding abnormalities to a woman’s feet have been causing her pain and annoyance, when it was initially blamed on an accident. Cases like this prevent lawsuits against those who are innocent, but can also work the other way and get those who indirectly cause injury to be prosecuted.
Hannon, Patrick. “Foot/Ankle of Injuries: A Retail Store Defense Case.” Journal of Forensic Biomechanics 08, no. 03 (2017). https://doi.org/10.4172/2090-2697.1000e111.