Car accidents happen to most people at some point. As much as drivers attempt to avoid making physical contact with other vehicles on the road and in parking lots, the circumstances of a crash are often out of anyone's control.

Unfortunately, the vocabulary used by insurance companies, lawyers, and law enforcement officials can be confusing.

Many people are unaware that there's a difference between a collision and an accident, however. Original laws defining a collision were created for boats, well before automobiles were invented. Now, the distinction for car, truck, and SUV drivers is clear due to the insurance industry's need to evaluate claims and make reasonable determinations about how best to allocate payments for the costs associated with vehicle crashes.


A collision is a crash caused by negligence from an involved party. Running a stoplight, having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, excessive aggression while driving, or being distracted by a cell phone are examples of preventable activities that could cause a crash with another vehicle.

When a collision happens, police create a report as an official and unbiased record that insurance company adjusters use to help them investigate the events of the crash.

The at-fault party in a collision may be held responsible for their actions by the other party's insurance company. They may also face criminal charges if they are in breach of state laws. Whether one or both parties receive a traffic ticket or citation is up to the discretion of the responding police officers.

Each individual state governs their highways, city streets, and parking lots. Because the laws differ depending on the region of the United States where the accident occurred, it can be difficult to know how an insurance company may work their way through the claims process and who they may ultimately hold responsible for the collision.

Inevitable accident

Icy roads, heavy rain, an animal that runs out in front of a moving vehicle, and unexpected mechanical failure may also cause a crash. None of these things are within the control of or can be deemed as the responsibility of a driver. This kind of event differs from a collision and is called an inevitable accident.

If there is more than one vehicle involved in an inevitable accident, insurance adjusters will work to agree on how to handle the associated costs of any property damage and bodily injury.

Car accident laws

If you are involved in an auto collision, you'll find it useful to understand how the process of handling a claim and/or lawsuit may unfold. You may also decide to consult a lawyer to help you understand the laws about collisions and how they apply to your individual situation. Collision insurance is essential because it acts as a barrier between the costs of the crash and your personal assets if you are found to be at fault.

Laws in every state include four basic parts. "Duty" refers to the driver's responsibility to drive their vehicle according to local regulations. They should observe traffic signals, use their blinkers and headlights to increase their visibility, be aware of their surroundings, and maintain control of their vehicle at all times.

The second part is a "breach." If the other party involved in the collision can show that the crash happened due to a neglect of duty, they have a good chance of being able to move on to the third part.

"Causation" means that the injuries and property damage that occurred as a result of the collision were a direct result of the collision, and could not be attributed to any other cause.

The fourth part is "harm." If the party can also prove that they experienced harm as a result of the collision, they may be legally entitled to compensation.

What is collision insurance?

Your automobile insurance policy includes several different types of insurance covering a variety of circumstances. If your policy includes collision insurance, it pays for damage to your vehicle when you are the driver at fault in a crash. If your actions damaged another person's vehicle or property, the liability portion of your car insurance policy will pay for those damages.

When another driver causes a collision, and your vehicle sustains damage, their insurance company is responsible for paying the repair bill. Often, insurance adjusters go through an extensive interview process during which they talk with all parties involved in a collision as well as witnesses. They look carefully at police reports and note extenuating circumstances such as weather, other vehicles that may be involved, and the environment.

Your insurance company may arrange for repairs to your vehicle. If repair costs are more than the value of the car or the damage is too extensive to repair, you'll receive a settlement from the insurance company to put toward the purchase of a new, used, or leased vehicle. In either case, you are responsible for the deductible. So, if your deductible is $500 and the crash resulted in total damages to your vehicle of $3,600, the insurance company will pay $3,100, and you will pay $500.

The most important thing to remember, whether you are involved in a crash, accident, or collision, is to follow the instructions you receive from your insurance company. Contact the appropriate law enforcement officials, try to remain calm, be honest and straightforward about your injuries, and accept help if you need it at the scene. You aren't under any obligation to engage in a back-and-forth with the other driver. No one wants to be involved in a collision, but if you are, having the proper insurance in place will help make the entire experience less painful.