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

Jul 25, 2014

As reported in the past, on June 4, 2014, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill, intended to enhance awareness of bicycles and motorcycles on Michigan’s roads. House Bill 5438, commonly referred to as “Nathan’s Law,” after Nathan Bower, who was killed in an automobile-motorcycle crash, would require all driver training classes to include […]

Read More
Jul 24, 2014

As both a bicycle accident attorney and advocate for safer riding, I previously prepared an article to serve as an overview of the laws that apply to riders while bicycling in Texas. Now, let’s delve into cities that have passed their own book of laws that also apply to bicyclists. This article focuses on relevant […]

Read More
Jul 23, 2014

The past few weeks have been a steady stream of activity for me as Bike Law Tennessee.  I have new cases and investigations where the rights of cyclists can be zealously advocated for, and motorists can continue to be educated. I’ve joined forces with the Memphis Hightailers to assert the rights of cyclists in western […]

Read More
Jul 22, 2014

We are thrilled to announce that the Freeman Kevenides Law Firm has joined the Bike Law Network! An icon in Chicago’s vibrant cycling community, James Freeman is known by many simply as “Lawyer Jim.” For many years, he has volunteered and worked with local bicycle advocacy organizations educating people about their rights and responsibilities. He gives regular […]

Read More
Jul 22, 2014

Many of us are now familiar with the bicycle accident that resulted in the death of bicyclist, Philip Geeck, on July 17, 2014. As a bicycle accident attorney, I wanted to understand how a bicyclist who apparently was following all traffic laws and pedaling in a protected bicycle lane could have been caught up and […]

Read More
Jul 11, 2014

Many of you have read the Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy’s attack-piece on cyclists in DC.  There have been thoughtful, rationale, and intelligent responses already: read WABA’s response, Washington City Paper , and WashCycle. The Post tried to contain the damage by publishing It’s time to tone down the tirades against bicyclists, by “transportation reporter and avid bicyclist” Ashley […]

Read More
Load More