Setting: Modern day America
Research: General research on broken necks, fractures of the cervical vertebrae, and reading through various pages on physical therapy, neck braces, halo braces, etc
Situation: I've got two people in a car when the car is rammed from behind with lethal intent. The driver gets his neck broken from the impact, as well as other injuries non-relevant to this question, but the neck-break is specifically not a severing of the spinal cord, so no paralysis, etc. The vertebrae damaged are C3, C4, and C5.
The passenger was the actual target of the bad guys, who come to inspect the scene/check for survivors. The bad guys will shoot the passenger.
What I want, but I don't know whether or not it is feasible, is for the bad guys to see the driver and be able to visually tell he has a broken neck, from the angle of his head, etc, and to therefore assume he is dead and not shoot him as well.
The feasibility question comes in with: if the character's neck-break is one that DOESN'T include severed spinal cord, could it realistically be bad enough that he would still appear to have a broken neck to the bad guy (head lolling to one side/at impossible angle/whatever) ? Or is that sort of visible break so bad that it would have be a severed-spinal-cord injury?
Thanks for any help anyone can give me!