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!



Group ride, bicycle accident, bike crash, bicycle accident attorney, bicycle accident lawyer
Nov 27, 2015

Our group made a big mistake on Saturday’s bike ride. Three riders almost got clipped by a pick-up truck as we made a left turn. The good news is everybody’s fine. No harm, no foul. But the incident has gnawed at me for the past few days. How did a group of such experienced riders […]

Read More
Greenville bicyclist and advocate Frank Mansbach, bicycle accident, bike crash, bicycle accident attorney, bicycle accident lawyer, South Carolina bicycle accident, South Carolina bicycle accident lawyer
Nov 25, 2015

A 2010 Bike Car Crash Turned Frank Mansbach into a Voice for Greenville Bicyclists Would you stop riding your bike if you were hit by a car? Not if you’re Frank Mansbach. Six years ago, a motorist struck Frank while he was on a morning bike ride. That crash transformed Frank into a powerful advocate […]

Read More
Nov 20, 2015

  At Bike Law, we’re big fans of cyclocross, and we sponsor a Bike Law CX Team. With the cyclocross season in full swing, we have riders heading to Hendersonville, North Carolina, for a November 28 event. The event, presented by Asheville Cyclocross, is being held at the Oskar Blues REEB Ranch. The Bike Law […]

Read More
smartphone use, distracted biking, bicycle crashes, bicycle driving
Nov 19, 2015

Distracted biking was the subject of a recent news article, Cities and States Try to Crack Down on Distracted Bicycling. The article’s back-and-forth debate centered on this question: do we need special laws to block cyclists from riding with earbuds or using handheld smartphones? Several cities or states have already banned cyclists’ use of handheld […]

Read More
bicycle accident, bike crash, bicycle accident attorney, bicycle accident lawyer, North Carolina bicycle accident, North Carolina bicycle accident lawyer
Nov 17, 2015

Look at the above picture. There’s nothing special about it, really – aside from the obvious fact that every ride with your buddies is special. Now take another look. What you’re seeing is two abreast riding, a common practice in nearly every group ride. Currently, North Carolina’s law is silent on riding two abreast, and cyclists across […]

Read More
Nov 14, 2015

Earlier this year, our client David Spranger was riding his bike to work at 5:00 a.m. His bicycle was covered in lights and reflective gear, and he was wearing a bright yellow rain jacket. David was seriously injured when a driver in a minivan struck him from behind. David’s injuries included fractured bones and a […]

Read More
Nov 11, 2015

After deliberating for more than five and a half hours on Friday, a Cook County jury decided to compensate a male bicyclist injured in a 2011 collision with a SUV in Palos Heights.  Our firm represented the cyclist at the week long trial. The case was a tough one and the verdict of $37,000 reflects […]

Read More
Gas, gas tax, bicycle accident, bike crash, bicycle accident attorney, bicycle accident lawyer
Nov 09, 2015

We had just finished a short and pleasant ride to a local coffee shop and were returning home. As we crested a short hill, an impatient motorist passed us and forced an oncoming car to the shoulder. The motorist who had been forced from the road rolled down his window and motioned at us. “Bicycles […]

Read More
Bike Law Bullitt Cargo Bikes
Nov 03, 2015

If you followed the Bike Law National Tour, you probably noticed a number of cargo bikes in our pictures, like this shot from our Detroit scavenger hunt.  Here I am, at speed and with cargo. Simply stated, we are big fans of cargo bikes. A number of the Bike Law lawyers use them to commute, […]

Read More
Nov 02, 2015

The unthinkable has happened – during a short bike ride around town your buddy is injured in a bike-car collision. What’s your best course of action? I’ve seen plenty of lists on lawyer sites but rarely are they addressed specifically to cyclists. Bike Law attorney Ann Groninger has handled hundreds of bike accident cases, and […]

Read More
Nov 02, 2015

You’ve just received an e-mail from your local bicycling club: a new bill working its way through the State House could be bad news for bicyclists. Your cycling club has prepared a form letter and is urging you to fire it off to the lawmaker in your district. But are those form letters effective? Yes […]

Read More
Nov 02, 2015

The “Idaho stop” is not new but it’s in the news again and generating a fresh round of controversy.  What is the Idaho stop and yield? Under a law passed in 1982, Idaho bicyclists can treat a stop sign as a yield sign and a red light as a stop sign, assuming it’s safe to do so. Currently, only […]

Read More
Load More