Where the law is concerned, the exact definition of a word can play a crucial role in how the law is applied. Many court cases have been won or lost due to seemingly innocuous differences in meanings of words considered by most to be synonymous.
Aren’t a car accident and a car crash the same thing?
If you have ever been injured in a car accident, you may have wondered if the event was legally regarded as an accident or a crash. While accidents are legally defined as unfortunate events typically caused by carelessness, crashes are defined as something being damaged due to a collision. So, while all car accidents are crashes, not all crashes are accidents. As far as the law is concerned, the majority of car accidents are considered crashes to which liability can be assigned. Regardless of whether you were injured in a car crash or a car accident, you might be entitled to hold the at-fault driver accountable for the medical bills and other financial losses you acquired. An experienced car accident lawyer from Local Accident Reports can help you determine liability and advice you on the wisest course of action for pursuing compensation.
Accident vs. Crash
Everyone uses the phrase ‘car accident.’ In fact, the term is so common that most people probably don’t ever give a second thought to what it really means. As previously mentioned, an accident is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd ed.) as “An unforeseeable and unexpected turn of events that causes loss in value, injury, and increased liabilities. The event is not deliberately caused and is not inevitable.” It is an ill-fated incident without deliberate or apparent cause. When we hear that someone was involved in a car accident, most of us think of it as an unlucky event; they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe the stars were not aligned in their favor. After all, no one wants to be involved in a car accident. But what does the use of the word ‘accident’ really say about the incident?
What is a Car Accident?
An accident is what takes place when a driver fails to control their vehicle and hits someone or something. The driver almost certainly had no intention of hitting anything, and the outcome of the car accident was a crash, but it is still called an accident.Some examples of genuine car accidents are:
- An avalanche or rockslide is set in motion, causing heavy and hazardous debris to fall onto the vehicle and the surrounding roadway
- A sinkhole forms in the roadway as a car is driving along
What is a Car Crash?
Entirely dissimilar to a car accident, car crashes can be avoided. Car crashes happen due to someone’s unlawful or negligent actions. Car crashes occur because one or more of the drivers involved made a bad decision without considering the risks, which, semantically speaking, is not an accident. The terms collision and crash, however, are interchangeable. Both of these words indicate a fault and provide a more suitable understanding of the incident in that someone is going to be held liable for damages.Examples of negligence that often leads to car crashes include:
- Texting while driving
- Failing to stop at a stop sign
- Changes lanes without looking
- Driving while fatigued
- Driving while under the influence
- Failing to adjust driving for inclement weather
Every single one of these car crashes would be preventable.
Should I Say Car Accident or Car Crash?
Many police departments nationwide are starting to use the words “collision” or “crash” rather than “accident.” If we can shift perspectives about why these events take place instead of acting like all collisions are unavoidable, we could possibly evolve to be more conscious of our behavior behind the wheel and potentially avoid future crashes.The words you use matter, and the words you choose to use to describe your situation could have a major effect on your case. When these incidents are referred to as “car accidents,” it disassociates the responsible party. A motor vehicle crash should never be downplayed, and that is exactly what the word “accident” does.
Different Kinds of Car Crashes
While each collision is unique and occurs under its own set of variables and factors, they normally only come under one of a few classifications:
- Rear-end collisions: Generally speaking, the driver of the striking vehicle tends to be the one at fault in a rear-end crash. In cases involving mechanical defects, the driver could still be liable if they failed to maintain their vehicle properly. The vehicle manufacturer or a parts manufacturer can also share liability.
- Head-on collisions: These collisions are especially catastrophic, and they are usually the result of someone drifting into oncoming traffic or driving in the wrong lane. Head-on collisions are very common among drivers who are under the influence. In most cases, the driver who was in the wrong lane will be held liable.
- Failure to maintain lane collisions: When a driver fails to maintain their lane, it means that they swerved or merged into another lane and, in doing so, struck a pedestrian or vehicle. The driver who did not stay in their lane is most likely at fault for the crash.
- Left-turn collisions: A driver making a lefthand turn is supposed to yield the right-of-way to any oncoming cars unless otherwise indicated. If a driver makes a lefthand turn and hits an oncoming vehicle, the turning driver is most likely at fault for failing to yield.
- T-bone and cross-traffic collisions: A collision that involves a vehicle being struck on its side is another common outcome when a driver fails to yield the right of way, often by running a stop sign or traffic light. Regardless of who struck whom, the driver who failed to yield is probably liable.
- Parking lot collisions: Low-speed collisions like those that occur in parking garages or parking lots are relatively common. Crashing into a parked car, backing out of a parking space, cutting through empty parking lot aisles, jumping stop signs, or disregarding right-of-way can all result in pedestrians and other vehicles being struck. Just because a car crash happens at a low speed does not mean it won’t have expensive or even fatal ramifications.
Contributing Factors and Establishing Fault
Any car crash, including those listed above, can be influenced by the various contributing factors that led to the collision. Those contributing factors will be used to establish who is liable for the crash.
- Driving under the influence: In 2020, more than 11,600 people were killed in vehicle collisions that were associated with a driver who was under the influence. If a driver is found to be drunk or similarly impaired during a collision, they are at least partly liable.
- Fatigued driving: As far as car crashes are concerned, the differences between drunk driving and fatigued driving are statistically insignificant. Drives who are sleep-deprived are less focused, have delayed reaction times, and can even nod off at the wheel. If a driver falls asleep, they are going to be liable for the catastrophe they cause.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving has become a huge issue since the advent of mobile technology. Whether it’s looking for a particular playlist on Spotify, responding to a text from a friend, messing with your dashboard entertainment system, or even talking to the friends who are riding with you, it is easy to see how a driver could get distracted. In 2020, roughly 328,000 car accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities were attributed to distracted driving.
- Mechanical failures: A mechanical failure in a car, such as a tire blowout, a busted axle, or brake pads that are worn, can lead to catastrophic collisions. If the driver failed to maintain their vehicle, they will almost certainly be liable for any mechanical failure. It is also a possibility that the part or vehicle manufacturer might share fault, depending on the circumstances of the crash.
What to Do After a Car Crash or Car Accident
After a car crash or a car accident, there are a few steps you should take in order to protect your right to financial compensation:
Notify Local Law Enforcement
In order to have your crash or accident properly documented and ensure that police and paramedics respond to the scene, you need to call 911. This is true regardless of whether the incident involved only your vehicle or other vehicles and people were also involved.
Gather All Relevant Evidence
If you are able, you need to collect as much evidence as possible while the scene is fresh. This includes the contact details of any pedestrians, passengers, and other drivers that were involved, along with their auto insurance information. If you are not taken away in an ambulance, use your phone to take videos or photos of the scene. These will be useful later on when you need additional information, such as:
- Proof of your injuries,
- Proof of damage to your vehicle
- Proof of where the accident took place
- What was happening when the crash occurred
- Whether or not there were any eyewitnesses,
- Possible sources of surveillance footage.
Notify Your Insurance Company
After you have been interviewed by the responding officers and collected evidence, you need to notify your insurance company. Call them right away and inform them that you have been involved in an accident. This is an essential step if you want to collect financial compensation, particularly if you are working with a lawyer.
Seek Prompt Medical Attention
Make sure that you receive medical care as soon as the police let you leave. Never assume that you are unharmed, and never procrastinate on seeing a doctor. You need to seek medical aid as soon as possible and ensure that all of your injuries are properly documented. Depending on the severity of your car crash, not every single injury you sustained is going to be immediately apparent. Some injuries often take days or even weeks to manifest symptoms, which is why you should get a detailed medical examination as soon as possible after the crash. Always follow any treatment plan they give you, and be sure to attend all follow-up appointments so they can monitor and document the progress or worsening of your injuries.
Consider Hiring a Lawyer
If you plan on pursuing compensation, you need to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Most experienced car accident attorneys will get to work right away to help you collect and preserve evidence, maintain records, and handle all communications with other parties on your behalf. All states apply a statute of limitations to personal injury claims for compensation, meaning getting to work right after your crash is going to be beneficial to your case later on.
Do I Have to Go to Court After My Car Crash or Car Accident?
No, court is not the unavoidable outcome of a car crash or car accident. For the most part, these events are the result of negligent driving behaviors, such as running a red light, running a stop sign, or speeding, but these are traffic violations, not criminal charges. There are, however, instances where a case might progress to court, like when the insurer refuses to pay, the other driver refuses to pay, or the incident involved a criminal charge. Some scenarios in which a car crash can lead to criminal charges include:
- If the collision was fatal and someone was killed as a result of your negligence
- If the accident was caused by a drunk or drugged driver, which would be indicated in the police crash report
Schedule Your Free Consultation Today
Whether you were injured in a car crash or a car accident, your physical health and quality of life have likely been affected. Vehicle collision victims typically endure serious injuries and are unable to work when they need money the most. Reach out to Local Accident Reports by calling (888) 657-1460 to schedule your free case review and learn what your rights are and what legal action our attorneys recommend for your circumstances.