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Accident vs. Crash: What’s the Difference?

By: Dan Hausman

You’re on your way home from work on the same route you take every day. Nothing is out -of-the-ordinary. Traffic is normal, work was manageable, you are focused on what’s for dinner and the kid’s history project you want to help them finish up. You see the light ahead of you turn yellow from seventy-five yards away. You put your foot to your brakes as you approach the intersection. As you are slowing to a halt, BOOOOOOM. Your body jerks forward and then back as you feel the force of the collision and you hear the sound of a bumper crunching. Another car has just collided with the rear end of your car. This is a moment that changes your life.

You call it an accident because you didn’t do anything wrong. Accidents happen to good people, right? This is no accident. In the situation described above, and in many other traffic “accidents,” someone’s underlying negligence actually caused the collision and any resulting damages to the other people and vehicles involved in the crash. Perhaps the person wasn’t paying attention because they were texting or listening to music or just plain zoned out. Perhaps the person decided to try to accelerate through a turning light or tried to turn in front of a person coming from the other direction without enough room to do so safely. The person may have been driving too close to the person in front or too fast to be able to react appropriately to traffic conditions. The point is, the crashes we call “accidents” are often not truly “accidents.”

The reason I write about the term “accident” is because I receive multiple phone calls every day from people injured in car crashes that are seeking guidance and a free consultation concerning their legal rights. It is without fail, that the people I speak to talk about their “accident” as opposed to their crash or collision. It is even something that I am guilty of doing at times due to the pervasiveness of the term. I have begun to make it a point, when speaking to people who call in to my office, Judges, representatives of car insurance companies, and jurors, to always speak about a “crash,” “wreck,” or a “collision.”

The reason why I am careful about how I describe a car crash is because the word “accident” implies that no decision was made that caused the incident. That there is nothing a driver could have done differently that would have resulted in everyone going home happy and in one piece. This is simply not true. People are often careless, reckless, and negligent on the road. They are in a big hurry and put their needs ahead of the thousands of others that they share the road with. When someone makes a choice to drive unsafely and harms someone else, the person who suffers harm deserves justice and compensation. “Accident” is a term used purposely to diminish the compassion for people who have been harmed at no fault of their own. I am fed up with the term “accident” and hope that you join me in considering the use of the word more carefully in the future.

As always, if you or someone you love has been injured in a crash, collision, or wreck caused by a negligent motorist, our award-winning personal injury lawyers can review your case anywhere throughout DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online for a free consultation.