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:

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.

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!



Oct 01, 2015

He thought he got away with it. When the driver of an Infiniti SUV struck a Chicago bicyclist earlier this year, fracturing his collar bone, he chose to flee.  What he did not count on was the bicyclist, a 35 year old Chicago pastry chef, having the wherewithal to snap a photo of his license […]

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Sep 17, 2015

Last week another Iowa cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run driver. At around 6:00am Dave Ryder was struck by Stephanie Kenealy on 35th Avenue.  Dave was coming home from the casinos.  He was riding a road bike with drop handlebars.  The bicycle was equipped with at least a rear light, and Ryder was wearing a […]

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Sep 15, 2015

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Sep 08, 2015

The Des Moines Register is publishing a series of articles on bicycling in Iowa. My understanding is that they had planned the series, but the highly publicized hit-and run-death of Gregary “Wade” Franck brought bicycling safety issues to the forefront of many minds in Iowa.The current article is titled, “Why does Iowa have so many […]

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Sep 08, 2015

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Sep 07, 2015

Having rolled out of Charlotte at the end of the party, we made our way closer to DC and “slept” east of Durham for a few hours. Up early and out the door after a banana break we headed toward Richmond. At Richmond we picked up Bike Law Tom and switched drivers. Bob took the […]

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Sep 06, 2015

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Sep 03, 2015

An irresponsible piece of journalism about biking injuries and deaths was published yesterday by National Public Radio under the headline, As More Adults Pedal, Their Biking Injuries and Deaths Spike, Too. The story noted the fact that the number of people biking regularly has substantially increased over the past several years, while spotlighting a “striking” […]

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Aug 18, 2015

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Aug 17, 2015

“There are two types of bicycle riders, those who have crashed and those who will crash.” I recall being told this when I first began cycling and time has proven it to be true. In my case, the crashes have been numerous. As my dad has pointed out, I have a need for doing everything […]

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Aug 12, 2015

So a driver just cut you off, flipped you off, or otherwise harassed you. It’s happened to all of us. I have had a blaring horn scare me and nearly cause me to crash. I would have loved to pull the minivan driver from his seat and give him a piece of my mind or […]

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Aug 12, 2015

Bike Law Georgia has entered a strategic partnership with Georgia Bikes to be a Presenting Sponsor for the 6th Annual Georgia Bike Summit in November 2015.   The Bike Summit will be in Milledgeville and starts with a First Friday Street party, followed by a day of workshops, discussion and speakers all revolving about ways to […]

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