Why Your Crash Was No Accident?

Motor vehicle safety advocates want to change the word “accident” to “crash” to prevent reckless or negligent drivers from absolving themselves of liability.

Does Terminology Reduce Liability?

The New York City nonprofits Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are supporting a campaign to ban the word “accident” from descriptions of “car crashes.” They want to remind people that many car accidents or crashes are unintentional, but they can also be prevented by obeying speed limits, traffic laws, and safe driving practices.

Some safety advocates assert that the term “accident” implies a passive voice that diminishes a driver’s responsibility in a traffic accident. An accident is defined as an unexpected or unintentional incident that typically results in some type of damage or injury. In most cases, accidents are not deliberate, which is why they are called accidents. A car accident may be caused by debris on the road, an unexpected sinkhole, icy road conditions, or a deer crossing the highway. When injury lawyers reference a “car accident” or “car crash,” what do these words actually imply about the event?

Car crashes are related to events that occur due to a driver’s negligent or reckless behavior without regard for accident or injury risks. These events are not considered accidents. Crash and collision are interchangeable terms that imply the same meaning and effect. Both terms imply fault and give a better understanding of traffic-related events where one or more parties are liable. A car crash may occur under the following conditions:

  • A driver is speeding
  • A driver is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • A driver is fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel
  • A driver is distracted by a cell phone or navigation map
  • A driver fails to stop at a traffic light or stop sign
  • A driver changes lanes without observing surrounding traffic

In some states, the law enforcement “Uniform Accident Report” form has been replaced with the “Uniform Traffic Crash Report” when serious injuries or fatalities occur. Many accident lawyers state that terminology can have a strong impact on the outcome of a case that involves injuries and deaths. A serious car crash should not be taken lightly, and the term accident can downplay the seriousness of the incident. Insurance adjusters often downplay injury claims by calling motor vehicle crashes “accidents.”