02

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

Bike crash
Jul 19, 2016

You can’t believe that just happened. You were cut off. Left hooked. Doored. However your crash occurred, it happened, and thankfully you are walking away, shaken and pissed off. Sadly, you can’t say the same for your bike. Your frame is cracked or bent. Fork or wheels trashed. Saddle ripped. Who is going to pay? […]

Read More
DC law
Jul 12, 2016

July 12, 2016 @ 1 p.m: Washington, D.C. just took a very big step forward in protecting the rights of vulnerable road users.   Bike Law’s Timmy Finch was there. Today, Council approved the first reading of the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016. [Read more about the bill and its postponement last month.] […]

Read More
1410576_630x354
Jul 02, 2016

It’s been a brutal start to the summer for cyclists.  From New York to Michigan to San Fransisco and everywhere in between we’ve seen a level of carnage unmatched as far as I can remember.  I’ve been told that there are all sorts of possible reasons for these bike crashes, mostly some combination including more […]

Read More
IMG_3687
Jun 28, 2016

11:30 am UPDATE: Act pulled from today’s Agenda in last minute move.  This means it HAS to come up at the July 12th meeting.  We will be there!  Today, the DC Council will vote on the “Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016.”  If passed, the act will end the antiquated legal doctrine of contributory […]

Read More
Jun 27, 2016

Although we negatively judge our American neighbours repeatedly over their gun laws, when the weapon is a car (and it is used to seriously hurt or kill a cyclist or pedestrian) they are way ahead of us and find our system appalling. A large number of States have already passed Vulnerable Road User Laws and […]

Read More
Jun 23, 2016

On June 22, 2016, the driver who ran down and killed five Kalamazoo cyclists and injured four others was officially brought into a Kalamazoo courtroom and charged with five counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment. At that court proceeding, it was also revealed that the driver, 50-year-old Charles […]

Read More
Jun 20, 2016

Before heading out for a ride most of us intuitively check our air, brakes, chains and cranks and do a once over of our bikes.  We confirm our helmets are secure, our cell phones and Garmins are charged, and that we have lights, if we think we’ll need them.  If we are going any significant […]

Read More
Jun 17, 2016

In light of the Kalamazoo, Michigan tragedy, it’s so easy to focus on what’s wrong with the world. Several similar incidents this year have hit too close to home. Some friends in North Carolina were also run down in group.  As were clients in in North Augusta, SC.  As our community grows, we experience more […]

Read More
Jun 08, 2016

Since early this morning, my phone has been blowing up with calls, text messages, and e-mails from cyclists concerned, outraged, and simply wanting more information about the recent tragedy in Kalamazoo.  It’s hard for me to think about this tragic collision, but at the same time, it is impossible to escape. Here is just one […]

Read More
rep62
Jun 02, 2016

*** 2d UPDATE, June 5, 2016, noon *** A cyclist emailed Havard to ask him to change his anti-bike position; Havard responded.  His parents not only taught Havard “not to play in the road,” they apparently taught him when you are in a hole, keep on diggin’! We invite you to let him know how […]

Read More
TORONTO, ON - JULY 7: Critical injury lawyer Patrick Brown seen inside the Mcleish Orlando law firm on July 7, 2015. Brown is raising awareness about the lack of regulations at extreme sport facilities around the city.
Jun 02, 2016

Patrick Brown of Bike Law Canada has been nominated for Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s 25 Most Influential! We would not only like to congratulate Pat, but ask that you take the time to vote for him due to his efforts advocating for cyclists. Pat is a proud founding member and past director of Cycle Toronto (formerly Toronto Cyclist Union) […]

Read More
2-42-55 Yellow
May 31, 2016

When I first met Richard a nurse was assisting him with the delicate task of using the hospital bathroom.  He had just had surgery on his broken right leg, now wrapped in a heavy plaster cast.  Defecation and its attendant tasks were proving a challenge.  He needed help. The rest of his body was a […]

Read More
Load More