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Crash vs. Accident: Changing the Language of the Law

Language is an incredibly important aspect of everyday life.  Without language we are unable to communicate with each other.  However, different words can be used to describe the same thing.  Take, for example, car crashes.  Most people will understand what you’re are talking about if you say you were in a car crash.  If instead you said you were involved in a car accident, generally people would understand these to mean the same thing.  However, the state of Nevada believes there is a difference between the two.


Changes to Nevada’s Laws

Previously, most of Nevada’s automobile laws included the accident when referring to collisions between automobiles, or collisions caused by automobiles.  According to KUNR, state officials changed the verbiage related to automobile collisions in almost every law. Instead of accident, the incidents are now referred to in the law as crashes. The spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Transportation stated the change was meant to send a message. The message is that many car crashes are in fact preventable.  The law changes are geared toward individuals who choose to drive while under the influence of illicit substances, or those who drive while they are distracted.  The idea is, since these choices are intentional, the resulting collisions are not accidents.  The laws went into effect in January of 2016, although the changes were approved by lawmakers in 2015.


Last year the Washington Post wrote an article to try to highlight the difference in the language.  According to the article, an accident is unintentional by definition.  The concern is that, by using the word accident, listeners assume the collision was unanticipated, so no one could be blamed.  Many groups, like Families for Safe Streets, are attempting to change the way traffic collisions are viewed.  On its website, the group encourages individuals to take a pledge stating they will refer to collisions as crashes, not accidents, and that they will educate others on the difference.  Currently over 3,800 signed the pledge on the website.


Current use of Crash and Accident

Media outlets in a recent fatal traffic collision reported by Fox 5 KVVU use both the terms accident and crash.  In that incident, Daniel Garcia-Martinez was arrested for allegedly hitting two-year-old Evelyn Green, and then fleeing the scene.  Martinez was not arrested on alcohol-related charges, but some neighbors of Green believe alcohol played a role.  Green died as a result of the crash.  Although the word accident was used twice in the article, the word crash was used three times including once in the article’s title.  This shows that, although Nevada’s laws were changed, it might take time before the general public gets used to the change.


If you are involved in a traffic collision, language could be very important to your case.  As the victim, you may want to refer to the incident as a crash. On the other hand, if you are the defendant it might be better to refer to the collision as an accident, especially if there were mitigating circumstances. Since Nevada changed the wording of its laws, it is very important that you contact a licensed Nevada automobile collision attorney. An attorney will be familiar with the legal changes and know how best to proceed with your claim.

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