02

Cambio Corsa: The Bike Law Blog

Are Bicycle Crashes Accidents?

Although people often use the words "bicycle crash" and "bicycle accident" interchangeably, those of us that use these words all day agree that an accident means something unfortunate that cannot be avoided. A crash, on the other hand, is the result of choices made and risks disregarded.

In our line of work, the words “bicycle crash” and “bicycle accident” come up constantly and are seemingly used interchangeably. But those typically representing the individual (as opposed to the court system, insurance system and others) are often adamant about using “crash” instead of “accident.” As advocates and lawyers representing injured cyclists, which term should we use and why?

From a strictly linguistic standpoint, crash and accident are differently defined. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines crash and accident as follows:

crash
verb ˈkrash
: to hit something hard enough to cause serious damage or destruction
: to damage (a vehicle) by causing it to hit something (emphasis added)
: to make a loud noise by falling, hitting something, etc.

ac•ci•dent
noun ˈak-sə-dənt, -ˌdent; ˈaks-dənt
: a sudden event (such as a crash) that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury
: an event that is not planned or intended : an event that occurs by chance

According to these definitions, all accidents are crashes, but crashes are not necessarily accidents. Earlier definitions, and common usage, make the word accident seem even more innocuous. For example, the Old English Dictionary definition of accident is: “An unfortunate event, a disaster, a mishap.” The definition of crash is: “The act, or an instance, of crashing” (and the definition of the verb “to crash” is: “to suffer damage in an accident”). The OED definition of “collision” is: “The action of colliding or forcibly striking or dashing together; violent encounter of a moving body with another.”

Although we now often use the words interchangeably, people who hear and use these words all day seem to agree that accident means something unfortunate that cannot be avoided. A crash, on the other hand, is the result of choices made and risks disregarded. The meanings and their implications are so ingrained that repeated use of the word accident often can convince jurors and others that a crash is just that — an accident —  and that the at-fault driver is not really at fault because the circumstances of the crash were beyond his or her control.

More law enforcement agencies agree and now favor use of the word crash or collision. In North Carolina, the law enforcement report of a traffic incident is called a “crash report.” Understandably so; use of the word accident in the event of serious injury or death is further insult to the injured person or family of the victim who at least want the careless driver to take responsibility for his or her actions.

When I’m talking with insurance adjusters, judges, jurors and others, I always use the words crash or collision so there is no question as to what I think about fault. Unfortunately, almost every one of my clients comes to me looking for a bicycle accident attorney, not a bicycle crash attorney. I hope that will change one day and we’ll start recognizing crashes for what they almost always are – a result of careless, reckless or even intentional behavior. In the meantime, we’re still bicycle accident lawyers, or whatever you need us to be in order to help.

Thank you for letting us serve you in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and throughout the country!

 

Comments

Sep 29, 2014

As an Illinois attorney who represents injured bicyclists, and who also sponsors cycling clubs, race teams and bike events I love and hate exculpatory agreements.  These rights waiving documents can be devastatingly bad for the individual cyclist who has been harmed due to someone else’s negligence. On the other hand, such waivers protect cycling groups […]

Read More
Sep 24, 2014

On Monday night I went to listen to Gabe Klein present recommendations for the City of Charleston to help the city move forward with a “New Mobility.” Right away, Klein proclaimed that he is not so much a fan of proposals and studies as he is in “getting things done.” Good. We need some of […]

Read More
Sep 22, 2014

My social media feed is pretty much full with cycling news and race reports. So for the past several days, I’ve seen a lot of news and commentary on two cycling news events: (1) the Kentucky cyclist convicted of riding in the travel lane of a busy thoroughfare and (2) the New York cyclist colliding with, and critically […]

Read More
Sep 19, 2014

The October 2014 issue of Bicycling Magazine named its 50 “Best Bike Cities.” The highest-ranked Michigan city went to Grand Rapids (#41). The publication explained that “one reason” Grand Rapids was selected was: “In addition to 35 miles of new on street facilities between 2012 and 2013, there is a booming fat-bike racing scene, including […]

Read More
Sep 17, 2014

This week, a law took effect in California that is designed to increase safety for bicyclists.  The law, commonly known as a “3-foot passing law,” requires motorists to maintain a distance of at least three feet between their vehicle and a bicycle, when passing a cyclist. California is now the 22nd state with a “3-foot […]

Read More
Sep 16, 2014

The one career choice I have made that has not raised the question, “Why would you do that?” has been joining the Bike Law Team. For roughly the past five years, I was a prosecutor in Charleston, SC. Prosecution was great. I was assigned a very challenging caseload and fought hard for the victims in […]

Read More
Sep 15, 2014

Recently, General Motors launched a bicycle share program for its employees at its Warren Technical Center. The center spans 330 acres with 61 buildings in Warren, Michigan. There are already a number of ways to get around the large campus. Employees can walk, ride a shuttle, or drive their personal vehicles and hope to find […]

Read More
Sep 13, 2014

Please watch this video.  This Dutch video not only destroys our pitiful infrastructure, but also makes very important points about American cyclo-culture.

Read More
Sep 09, 2014

As Illinois bicycle lawyers, we handle all issues involving cyclists, including those caused by snow.  In breaking news, Illinois municipalities may be held liable for injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists forced into the street by snow piled onto sidewalks and bike lanes by city plows, according to the Illinois Appellate Court.  The ruling in Pattullo-Banks v. […]

Read More
Sep 08, 2014

I was asked to speak on the topic of vulnerable roadway users at this year’s Tennessee Lifesavers Conference, hosted by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (“GHSO”). The GHSO is a branch of TDOT, and is most well-known for its extensive PSA campaigns statewide in Tennessee: “Click it or Ticket” and “Booze it and Loose It”. My […]

Read More
Sep 05, 2014

A cyclist was seriously injured in an Oregon bicycle accident on Wednesday morning. The cyclist, Richard Barrett, 67, of Corvallis, Oregon was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of NW Hill Road in McMinnville, Oregon at 9:30 A.M. when a tractor-trailer towing heavy duty farm machinery began to pass. Although the truck itself did not collide with […]

Read More
Sep 02, 2014

A driver who killed a cyclist near Rainier, Oregon has been arrested and booked into the Columbia County Jail on charges of First Degree Manslaughter, Felony Hit and Run, and a misdemeanor out of Washington County for Fail to Appear. Oregon State Police report that the driver, 34-year-old Kristopher Lee Woodruff, of Vernonia, Oregon was […]

Read More
Load More