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Is a car crash really an “accident”?

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | May 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

A recent news story highlighted a growing movement in the safety industry – including by the head of the National Transportation Safety Administration – away from use of the term “accident” to describe car crashes caused by something else.

According to a preliminary study by the National Safety Council traffic fatalities rose during the year 2015 over the prior year by nearly 8%, and resulted in nearly 38,000 deaths.  According to the study and the article nearly all of those crashes resulted from human error – things such as distracted driving, texting, drunk driving and other preventable causes.  Only 6% of crashes are estimated to have been the result of defective manufacturing, weather, or other external factors.

Nearly all traffic fatalities were the result of human error

These sobering statistics – which are somewhat surprising given how much auto safety has improved – have led many in the community to seek to avoid use of the term “accident”, which they believe may exonerate the person at fault for causing the crash.

Semantics aside, these statistics are frightening.  If it is in fact the case that greater than 90% of traffic crashes are the result of human error then we have a big problem.  Distracted driving, drunk driving, texting while driving, etc. are all clearly preventable.

“Accidents” are often the result of negligence

In the legal world, what are often described as “accidents” are really the result of “negligence” by the driver – the one who was distracted, drunk, texting or otherwise.  “Negligence” is essentially the failure to act with reasonable care towards another.

People often complain about “lawsuits”, but when the statistics tell us that the vast majority of car crashes happen as a result of negligence our response is that calling an accident lawyer may be the best way to try and change/improve a declining and frightening statistic.

By holding a wrongdoer accountable for their negligence in causing an accident the hope is to prevent that individual from acting in the same way in the future.  This, combined with stories highlighting the problem (and the increase of self-driving cars), can only help to reduce the number of car related fatalities.

If you were hurt in a car “accident” please feel free to give us a call.  We're happy to help.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.


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