Have you or a loved one living in North Carolina been injured in a situation where another car or truck collided with your car or SUV? If so, would you really call the situation an “accident?” It is highly unlikely that the N.C. driver ran into your car on purpose, so it might be an accident in that sense, but when a North Carolina crash occurs, intent and fault are two vastly different ideas.

Language is a powerful thing, and the way we speak has a great deal to do with how we think and act. Think about it: news headlines—both in print and online—tend to use words such as “crash” and “wreck” instead of accident. But, why? Sure, they are both shorter words, but online news outlets are no longer concerned about fitting headlines onto the front page of a physical newspaper—which means that such words are used because of what they mean and how they make readers feel.

With this in mind, there are national efforts in motion to reduce the use of the word “accident” in regard to motor vehicle crashes and to raise awareness regarding how the term can be dangerously misleading. A growing number of people believe that using the word “accident” actually benefits insurance companies and lawyers who defend at-fault drivers.

Making Assumptions Subconsciously—and Often Unknowingly

Over the last few years, several advocacy groups have come together to create a national campaign that discourages the word “accident” in car crash cases. Starting in 2015, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets launched an online educational program and pledge drive intended to eliminate assumptions caused by using “accident.” The program is called “Crash Not Accident,” and it continues to gain traction in the eastern United States.

Amy Cohen is the founder of Families for Safe Streets. In 2013, her 12-year-old son was tragically hit by a car and killed. According to Cohen, her son and other victims like him were not killed in accidents. “An ‘accident,’” she maintains, “implies that nothing could have been done to prevent their deaths.”

Proponents of the shift in terminology believe that calling a crash an accident gives the subconscious impression that nobody bears specific responsibility for the situation. In reality, most crashes are caused by someone’s actions, inaction, or negligence, which means that someone can and generally should be held responsible.

Language Absolutely Matters

The advocacy groups and their supporters maintain that using the right words will create more honest discussion and allow for more in-depth investigations and inquiries when crashes happen. They say that avoiding the word “accident” will force us—on an individual level, as well as at the municipal, state, and national levels—to ask important questions. How did the crash happen? Who is to blame? Do crashes happen at the same location often?

The “Crash Not Accident” campaign also reminds the public that factory owners used to call preventable workplace injuries “accidents” prior to the labor movement forcing employers to improve workplace safety. Similarly, drunk drivers often insisted that “it was an accident” when impaired driving caused others to suffer injuries, but awareness efforts have shifted the thinking about such crashes in recent decades.

The campaign’s organizers point out that we already avoid the word “accident” in certain situations. For example, airplanes do not have accidents. Planes crash. When they do, we demand answers about what happened and why. The organizers believe that the same should be true for traffic crashes.

Call a North Carolina Car Crash Attorney

Dropping a glass is an accident. Tripping over your own feet is an accident. Such accidents are a part of life and unavoidable. A car wreck involving personal injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one, however, should not just be accepted as something that happens without a reason. If you have been injured in a NC motor vehicle crash of any kind, the experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you explore your options for collecting compensation from the responsible party or parties, just as our personal injury attorneys did in securing a $200,000 settlement for a North Carolina man who was injured when a drunk driver crashed into the man’s car. Contact our office today to discuss your case with a skilled member of our personal injury team. We maintain North Carolina and Virginia satellite offices to serve our clients.