Car Crash or Car Accident: Is There Actually a Difference?

You’ve probably spent the better part of your life interchangeably using the words accident and crash when it comes to vehicles. These common phrases refer to one of the most inconvenient, dangerous, and deadly occurrences that we all dread. We see the words on the news and our social media feeds, but you probably never realize there is a difference between a car accident and a car crash.

Defining a car accident

A car accident isn’t exactly the same thing as a car crash. While we use the phrases synonymously, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the exact same thing. As the word ‘accident’ implies, a car accident means that it was, well, an accident. This is most appropriately used when neither driver is really at fault for what happened. Hazardous weather conditions, poor roads, and a handful of other factors can account for a car accident. When someone is referring to a car accident, it typically means neither driver was really at fault.

Pobst looking none too happy after crash. | Unplugged
Pobst looking none too happy after crash. | Unplugged

In a perfect world…

But, of course, there is usually someone that is considered more at fault. A car accident doesn’t have to mean that two cars collided. It could mean that a car hydroplaned off of the road and hit a stationary object, or it could mean that a driver lost control of their car and hit another vehicle. The major difference in the terminology used is more important from a legal standpoint than in general conversation. In a car accident, there isn’t usually someone held accountable for being at fault.

BMW destroyed in accident. (Photo by: Joan Slatkin/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
BMW destroyed in accident | Joan Slatkin/Education Images/Universal Images Group

A car crash, on the other hand, is different

When you hear the word car crash, you probably think of something a little bit more dramatic than a car accident. Car crashes aren’t necessarily better or worse than a car accident, however, they are usually caused by something that could have been prevented. There are so many distractions on the road that can divert a driver’s attention, and even if it is just for a split second, it could cause a car wreck.

Two Car Traffic Accident
Two cars at an accident site | Daniel Bockwoldt/picture alliance via Getty Images

Can You Really Remove a Dent With a Toilet Plunger?

Regardless of the terminology, getting in a car accident or a car wreck can be scary and stressful. Whether the damage to your car is minor or bad enough to completely total your vehicle, chances are you don’t really care what you call it. From a legal stand point, and even from the stand point of who is at fault for the damage, the distinction between a car accident and a car crash can be rather important.