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Take crash test ratings with a grain of salt

Crash test ratings may be where you start your search for a new car if safety is your main goal. Perhaps you have looked at the statistics and you know how many people pass away or suffer serious injuries every year. You don't want that to be you or a family member, so all you care about is getting a safe vehicle.

You should not disregard these ratings. They are useful, and they are going to help you make an informed decision. However, some experts think that you should take them with a grain of salt.

After all, in studies regarding fatalities in certain types of vehicles, very small cars often have the most. The safer cars tend to be larger ones -- often, they're not cars at all, but trucks and SUVs.

The problem is just physics. When two objects collide, the one with the greater mass inflicts more force -- at the same speed -- on the object with less mass. A lighter, smaller car is going to absorb more damage, and that translates to higher fatality and injury rates.

Experts note that this fundamental rule remains true even when you factor in crash tests. If both vehicles appear equal in the ratings, the larger one still has an advantage if those two specific cars collide.

You can always find outliers or examples where small cars keep people safe. Don't throw out the ratings entirely. But understand that the size of the vehicle you choose plays a big role.

If you do get injured in an accident, you also want to know what legal options you have to seek financial compensation.

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