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

Nov 17, 2014

A common question from cyclists injured in a crash or accident is, “do I need a lawyer?”   Cyclists can be a tough bunch. We like to figure out things for ourselves. There are two possible scenarios: (1) If the injury is serious, the injured person often thinks, this is a no-brainer, the insurance company will […]

Read More
Reedo in winter gear
Nov 12, 2014

Below are some of the things I (Jim Reed in Upstate NY) have learned during my 40+ years of winter riding. KEEP THE WIND OUT Your outermost layer needs to be windproof but breathable.  We are blessed by many fabric choices that accomplish these goals and the key is to have a great outer layer. […]

Read More
StateBadges_Web_OR
Nov 12, 2014

Bicycle helmets have been in the news lately. Last month, Bike Law Illinois attorney Brendan Kevenides reported that an Illinois case may have some potential to hold Illinois cyclists liable for their own head injuries if they are hit by a car and are not wearing a helmet. The day before that report came out, […]

Read More
19001200SidepathsVol3No23p430fullcover
Nov 05, 2014

Sidepaths haven’t existed for a century – so why do we still refer to “mandatory sidepath laws”? I want to reclaim a word. As a policy historian who has spent several years writing about the brief and largely-forgotten sidepath movement of the 1890s, I sometimes get an earful from present-day cyclists who are upset about […]

Read More
Nov 03, 2014

Former British pro cyclist Chris Boardman wrote a great op-ed piece appearing on the BBC website today complaining that the lack of safe traffic infrastructure makes him fear for his daughter’s safety while riding on the roads around their home. Chris is most famous for setting the world record in the one-hour track time trial three times from 1993 […]

Read More
Oct 30, 2014

Understanding trends in helpful in deciding where to focus safety efforts and crash prevention. According to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways is trending upward. The report finds that yearly bicyclist deaths increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2012, while overall motor vehicle […]

Read More
Oct 28, 2014

Sometimes a wayward comment by a Court can wreak all manner of havoc.  Recently, I came across such a remark in a federal case from the Northern District of Illinois which I fear could have a negative impact on bicycle crash cases filed in Illinois state court. The issue which the federal court stepped in […]

Read More
Oct 27, 2014

Bicycle lawyers are frequently asked for advice about the bicycle insurance coverages cyclists should consider. The answer to this question is complicated and usually requires an analysis of a cyclist’s unique circumstances and existing insurance policies. However, virtually all bicycle attorneys recommend that all cyclists purchase “uninsured motorist insurance” and “underinsured motorist insurance.” The importance […]

Read More
Oct 27, 2014

In some countries, comprehensive insurance policies are available for cyclists; like their counterparts for motorists, these policies cover cyclists for risks such as liability, personal injury, uninsured motorists, and theft. Until recently, comprehensive insurance policies for cyclists were not available in the United States; however, comprehensive bicycle insurance policies are now available in the United […]

Read More
Oct 24, 2014

A local cyclist narrowly avoided tragedy at the hands of a road-raging driver in suburban Olathe, Kansas, on Monday Oct 20. While on a public road, near a well-used public park, the cyclist rode past a driver who was pulling to a stop sign. For no good reason, the driver became engaged, gunned his engine and veered the […]

Read More
Oct 22, 2014

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Bike Law CX team participated in the Tailwind Veterans Memorial Park Cyclocross Race. Bike Law teammates Amy Meldrum and Wade Burch rode their way to the podium with Amy taking the top spot in the Women’s Category 3-4 race and Wade riding to 2nd place in a very fast and […]

Read More
Oct 17, 2014

  At approximately 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 56 year-old Bobby Brooks pedaled his bicycle down Hansen Road in Houston, Texas. This stretch of Hansen is primarily light-industrial and only blocks from the end of Runway 22 at Houston’s William Hobby Airport. As Mr. Brooks rode down Hansen and into the intersection with […]

Read More
Load More