When is a car accident more than just an accident?

As one of America’s most prominent cities, Chicago sees more than its share of traffic collisions and the injuries that accompany them. Each year, countless Chicago residents are injured or killed in preventable car accidents and pedestrian accidents.

But as we have previously written, many of these injurious and fatal crashes could have been avoided; and they usually result from the negligence of one or more drivers. When that’s the case, can we really call them “accidents?”

The majority of traffic collisions are accidents only in the sense that it was not the driver’s intention to strike another vehicle or pedestrian. But if that motorist knowingly engages in unsafe behavior such as texting while driving, surely he or she must realize that a crash is a likely outcome.

Many safety advocates argue that the term “car accident” does a disservice to victims who are injured and killed in preventable crashes. When a collision is classified as an accident, the at-fault drivers often escape criminal charges and other serious consequences.

With this in mind, New York City is implementing some small but important changes that could catch on here in Chicago and around the country. The City’s “Accident Investigation Squad” has been renamed the “Collision Investigation Squad.” Additionally, the Squad must now immediately visit and investigate the scene of any accident that has left one or more victims in critical condition.

These common-sense reform efforts could slowly but surely change the way that America thinks about and responds to traffic injuries and fatalities. Crashes are rarely unavoidable “accidents,” and it’s time that more drivers recognize the responsibility they share for public safety.

Until or unless such changes occur here in Illinois, many negligent drivers will continue to avoid criminal charges for causing crashes that might otherwise warrant them. But that doesn’t mean that victims can’t seek justice and compensation. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by the negligence of another driver, you may wish to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and options.

Source: The Car Connection, “‘Accident’ Or ‘Collision’: Why Don’t Drivers Get Jailed For Killing Pedestrians?,” Richard Read, June 27, 2013