It shocks me as a I drive around town to see lawyers like myself advertise as “accident” attorneys. When I see (or hear) this I generally shake my head with a not so mild degree of disgust. Why, you ask? Good question. Because calling a crash or collision an accident demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding as to what our client or potential client has been involved in. It by no means was an “accident” when they got rear ended by an inattentive driver or smashed into by someone who ran a red light. Let me explain.

There is a reason why the reports filled out by Metro and NHP are called “Traffic CRASH Reports” and not “Traffic ACCIDENT Reports.” When another driver violates the safety rules of the road and hits you with his or her car, it is not an “accident.” An accident is an event which happens that is out of the control of the individuals involved.

Let’s say you are taking a nice Sunday drive up at Mt. Charleston. Out of nowhere a boulder falls off the mountain and hits your car. This is an accident. For those that prefer the water to the mountains, imagine you are cruising around Lake Mead. An unexpected and unforcasted storm front rushes in. You immediately start back to the marina and as you are heading to safety your boat gets struck by lightning. That is an accident. When someone rear ends you or runs a red light and you get t-boned, that is not an accident. Why? Because what happened is due to a choice made by the other driver. That driver, for whatever reason, chose to not pay attention to his or her driving. They chose to allow themselves to be distracted. They chose to try and “beat the light.” The chose to follow too closely. They chose to driver faster than the conditions safely allowed for. They had control of whether or not they followed the rules of the road and they made a conscious decision not to. That boulder or the lightening bolt didn’t.

The more accurate description of what happens when one driver hits another is crash or collision. Now, defense lawyers and insurance companies hate it when plaintiff attorneys use those words. The defense wants the jury to believe this was an “accident.” “Hey, accidents happen. My client didn’t mean to cause an accident.” This sounds a lot more innocent than “Hey, my client admits this crash happened because he chose to pay attention to the phone instead of paying attention to his driving” or “My client really needed that drink from his triple venti white mocha and instead of paying attention to traffic in front of him he drank that thing down like he had been stuck in the desert for a month. That is why he didn’t see the light change from green to red and caused this crash.”

The distracted driver made a conscious choice to not focus on the safety rules of the road (and consequently yours safety) and instead focus on something else. When that happens, a crash is the expected and natural consequences of that choice. Or, to put it another way, what the hell did you think was going to happen when you were watching the newest Tik Tok dance while heading down the 95 at 70 miles per hour? Well, the end result isn’t an “accident.” It’s a collision. It’s a crash. And it’s a shame.

If you are the victim of someone choosing to focus on that venti mocha or their phone instead of the rules of the road (and consequently your safety) choosing an attorney who thinks you have had an “accident” may be putting yourself on a collision course to have your claim crash and burn.

Until next time, stay safe.

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