If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you likely have several questions. How will you pay for your medical bills? Who is responsible? How can you keep afloat while you’re recovering from your injuries?

A personal injury settlement is intended to provide answers to all of these questions: it will compensate for your medical bills, pain, and suffering while demanding legal recourse for the injured parties. For more information regarding the specifics of your case, consider speaking with an experienced car accident attorney in West Virginia.

Choose Your Words Carefully

If you’re in the middle of a personal injury case, it’s time to make note of the terminology your attorney and insurance adjuster use, so you can begin to understand the subtle differences and how they affect your case. It may be hard to believe, but using the wrong terminology may even affect the outcome of your suit. You don’t want to jeopardize your attorney’s efforts by mistake, so follow this tutorial and use the right terms in your personal injury case.

What Is the Difference Between a Collision and an Accident?

One of the most common mistakes people make is that they use the terms “accident” and “collision” interchangeably. To the layperson, these two terms seem synonymous, and may even seem like splitting hairs. But remember, when it comes to any area of the law, everything you say can – and will – be used against you.

Think of the word “accident” outside the context of a motor vehicle crash. What else comes to mind? Better yet, look it up. Synonyms of “accident” include words like “mishap,” “misfortune,” and “mistake.” Unfortunately, none of these words imply fault. In other words, if you use the word accident, a jury is going to associate it with a mistake, a temporary lapse in judgement, and not negligence.

Your Case Depends on Negligence

Remember, to successfully win a personal injury case, you must successfully prove several things:

  • The other driver committed negligence
  • That negligence directly led to your injuries, and
  • Those injuries led to specific damages.

The success of your entire case depends on proving that the other driver was at fault for your injuries. That’s why your attorney avoids words like “accident” and favors other terms that imply fault, like:

  • Crash
  • Collision
  • Wreck

These terms are all more accurate, as they describe what actually happened. While an insurance company may use terms like accident to show the jury that the driver was not at fault, your West Virginia personal injury lawyer will deliberately use terms like “crash” to show the jury that someone – namely, the other driver – was responsible.

Uniform Reports

This distinction has become so important, that the state of West Virginia recently mandated that all “Uniform Accident Reports” become “State of West Virginia Uniform Traffic Crash Reports.” The reasoning behind this change had more to do with new computer software than anything else, but regardless of the reason, even law enforcement officials must refer to crashes for what they are – not accidents, but collisions.

Changes in Terminology

The term car accident has actually been a matter of hot debate for the past fifteen years. An opinion article published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 2002 asserts that the term “motor vehicle crash” should universally replace the term “motor vehicle accident.” Their reasoning was simple: research shows that the majority of fatal crashes occur because of intoxication, speeding, carelessness, or distracted drivers. They also pointed to evidence that shows characterizing crashes as accidents may impede the recovery of crash victims.

What may seem like a simple distinction in jargon may actually have a bearing on your personal injury case. When discussing your crash in court, be sure to use strong words that actually describe what happened. It was no accident.