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Speed required to bend a frame?

My husband recently slid into an ancient VW bug going about 5 mph tops (he was pulling out of a stop sign and the car in front of him suddenly stopped in the intersection)in our tiny Renault Twingo. Now the driver is claiming the frame on his car was bent by the accident, which I cannot imagine. So my question: how fast do you need to be going to bend someone’s frame? There was no noticable damage to the bumper on the VW, nor on our little Twingo.


On April 9, 1971, the agency issued its first passenger car bumper standard – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 215, “Exterior Protection,” which became effective on September 1, 1972. This standard called for passenger cars, beginning with model year (MY) 1973, to withstand 5 mph front and 2 mph rear impacts against a perpendicular barrier without damage to certain safety-related components such as headlamps and fuel systems.

So the answer is, if it met this standard, anything above 2mph could have damaged the frame. If it didn’t meet this standard, any speed may have damaged the frame.

The insurance adjuster will determine if the frame was bent. If you’re trying to avoid the mess of going through your insurance, that usually ends up being a mess, too.

Hit properly at the proper angle by 2,000 pounds of steel it takes very little speed to bend a frame. It’s about the density of the energy (in finite elements) and the time involved in the dissipation of the energy (amplitude and duration). And the ability of the particular struck spot to dissipate the energy based on these factors and the angle it was struck at.

One point. If hubby hit him, it’s hubby’s fault. Hubby was not allowing enough space between himself and the other vehicle for the conditions. If the frame’s bent, and it’s confirmed by the adjuster, the blame goes to hubby, not the poor fella in the ancient VW. Hubby needs to learn to leave more space.

You have to remember that the ancient VW was built using the “latest” 1930s technology.

In other words, its construction cannot compare to more modern vehicles in either structural rigidity or passenger protection. Then, you have to factor in likely rust damage that may have weakened the structure of that old VW over the decades.

Put it all together and…yes, it is entirely likely that the 5 mph collision bent the frame of that old VW.

There is nothing magic about a framed vehicle that makes it inherently stronger than a uni body. In many cases, non framed vehicles may be stronger. Entirely possible especially with one that “ancient”. Just the age of the vehicle makes it more susceptible to damage. Older cars can bend frames hitting potholes.

Neither car HAS a “frame”…They are both just sheet-metal structures, like a beer can…When they get a little rust in them, they fold up very easily. You have insurance, right? Use it!

Granted, but the floor pan was still referred to as a frame by many vw people, to which axle assemblies were attached as well as body shell. Depends on your what your definition of is, is. It wasn’t a box frame in the traditional sense, that’s for sure.

I was not a box frame, but if it bent, the wheels would not track properly and that is a hard problem to fix, esp. on such a retarded construction as that old Vdub. Get an independent evalutation, and send you hubby to driving school. He doesn’t have to put the peddle to the metal when pulling away from a stop, certainly not with another car in front of him.

It is also possible that the damage existed before your husband hit it. The insurance adjuster can determine all the damage done and whether there was existing damage. Your insurance only has to pay for damage due the this accident, not preexisting damage. Since you drive a Renault, you don’t live in the USA or Canada. Do you have auto insurance? If so, use it. The insurance adjusters know all about this and can make a quick determination.

Yeah, they had a cool setup. The floor pan and “frame” were one formed sheetmetal assemblage and the body mounted on it.

But I wonder if “ancient” can be assumed to mean “air cooled”. OP?

If the claimant stated this at the scene then he is jumping to conclusions. If he was shown at a body shop I would want to see the estimate. Sometimes people hear or see what they want to.

Thanks for all the answers. The car was tested and the frame (or non-frame as the case may be) was not bent. But it was good to know that is was a possibility and not just someone trying to take us and our insurance company for a ride.

Just as an aside: Perhaps laws differ from place to place, but where we live, according to our insurance company, the car in front was in fact at fault, since it is illegal to simply stop suddenly in the middle of the road for no reason whatsoever.

You mean it is illegal to stop in the middle of an intersection if a pedestrian walks out in front of your car? What crazy state do you live in? Unless the guy pulled out in front of him, anytime someone rear-ends another car, the rear-ender is at fault, even if the car in front is in an intersection. Seriously, in what is state is it illegal to stop in the middle of an intersection because someone pulls or walks out in front of your car? Would they actually prefer to have a preventable collision or dead pedestrian instead?

My advice is to not take legal advice from anyone who isn’t a lawyer, and that includes your insurance agent. For goodness sake, any insurance agent has a conflict of interest (and probably no law degree), so you should take this advice with a grain of salt. It’s amazing to see how many half-truths and situational legal opinions get twisted into outright fallacies or get taken out of context, and I am willing to bet real money your insurance agent doesn’t keep up with case law where judges set legal precedent.

Whitey, you made valid points, but I’m not sure that is what Selkie or the agent had in mind. She said “it is illegal to simply stop suddenly in the middle of the road for no reason whatsoever”. I can see where that could be reasonable. I had an incident where a 911 pulled around from behind me while we were trying to merge onto a freeway and cut me off in the process. I guess 55 was not fast enough for him. I honked and flashed my lights. His response was to slam on the brakes, accelerate, and repeat the process about 3 or 4 times. Wouldn’t Porsche-Boy’s braking-to-cause-an-accident behavior be illegal? BTW, he was especially angry when he drove off without me stuck to his bumper.

You are right. The distinction “for no reason” makes a difference, but I suspect there was a reason of which the OP might not yet be aware. I think, currently, there is no APPARENT reason.

There are some funky intersections out there. I once made a left turn at an intersection that was kind of H shaped in downtown Fort Lauderdale, FL. In the middle of the turn, I looked up, saw a red light, and stopped, wondering if the light I was looking at applied to me. I was rear ended. From the other driver’s perspective, there was no reason for me to stop, but I think my reason was pretty good.

One time, I was making a right turn on red. After I started pulling out, I saw a car that was about to make a U turn in front of me. Since the car making a U turn had the right of way, I stopped to yield to him and was rear ended. That particular driver was gabbing on her cell phone when she rear ended me, but I wonder if she considers my reason for stopping in the intersection valid. Actually, I don’t much care what she thought. Both of these careless drivers were cited for rear ending me, so I guess the officers thought my reasons for stopping were pretty good.

My point is that it doesn’t really matter whether this driver we are discussing had a reason. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to proceed through the intersection. Maybe he saw a dog he thought might run out into the street. Maybe there was a mechanical issue. Whatever his reason for stopping, there is no excuse for following too closely. Whether the car in front of you is passing through an intersection or not, every driver should leave enough following distance to be safe.