Terms to Know for Car Accidents in PA | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
EMTs responding to a car accident or crash

Terms to Know for Car Accidents in PA

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Car accidents are common occurrences, something you can’t avoid even when you’re a great driver. When 1 out of 50 people in Pennsylvania is in a car accident every year, you’re likely to be in one once in your life.

When something can happen at any time and happen so often, the state has terms to define them. This helps victims of car accidents in PA describe what happened to the police, attorneys, and insurance companies. These descriptions and details can mean the difference between payouts and legal consequences.

When you know what to say to the police about a car accident in PA, they put it in writing and on the record. This goes to insurance and your attorneys, who present it to the courts as trustworthy proof, should you need to sue for damages. Official paperwork is some of the most powerful records in the U.S. court of law, and these are the terms that are used in them.

Car Accident Terms You Should Know in PA

Some terms are specific to certain aspects of car crashes, such as crash severity, person type, and more, alongside general key terms. If you’re in a car accident, these are terms you may come across.

General Car Accident Terms

These terms don’t apply to any specific part of an accident and are relevant to any type of car accident overall.

  • Alcohol-Related Crash: Any crash where one or more of the drivers involved was reportedly drinking or a pedestrian involved was drinking.
  • Distracted Driving: Any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from driving. Examples of this include texting, eating, grooming, and more.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Driving while drinking or under the effects of alcohol or illegal substances.
  • Child Passenger Restraint System: Child safety seats, existing vehicle safety belt restraints, and any combination of the two. Children under the age of four need special child restraint seats.
  • Harmful Event: When a car accident involves an injury and/or property damage beyond the damage done to the vehicle(s).
  • Passive Restraint: Safety features such as airbags, automatic laps, and shoulder harnesses that are not engaged by the occupant(s) of the vehicle(s).
  • Reportable Crash: A crash that results in an injury, disabling vehicle damage, or a fatality within 30 days of the accident.
  • Speed-Related Crash: Any crash that lists speed as a factor in the accident. This does not mean any car accident where the driver was speeding. If someone was going the speed limit, but their speed and local weather conditions led to a car losing control, this is still a speed-related crash.
  • Traffic Control Device (TCD): These are traffic devices such as traffic signals, stop signs, yield signs, or railroad crossing signs.
  • Vehicle Defect: A fault in the vehicle due to improper maintenance or faulty design that leads a driver to lose control of their vehicle.
  • Work Zone: An area where road construction or maintenance is occurring. It should be marked by signs, barricades, and/or other devices that protect or highlight workers to nearby drivers.

Crash Severity Terms

These three terms distinguish the severity of car accidents.

  • Fatal Crash: When one or more people involved in the car accident dies within 30 days due to injuries caused by the car crash.
  • Injury Crash: When no one involved in the crash dies within 30 days of the accident due to injuries sustained in the accident, but at least one sustained an injury. There is no time limit on when the injury must be discovered, as long as it can be connected to the car accident.
  • Property Damage Only (PDO): When no one was injured in the crash, but the cars suffered property damage that required towing.

Person Type Terms

These terms are how people in car accidents are described and reported.

  • Driver: The person in control of the vehicle in the accident or who lost control of the vehicle before the accident happened.
  • Occupant: Any person in a vehicle as a passenger in or on a vehicle during the accident.
  • Passenger: Any person in a vehicle as a passenger. A person can be both an occupant and a passenger in a car accident.
  • Pedestrian: Anyone not in a vehicle during a car accident.

Road Type Terms

It’s important to denote what type of road the accident happened on, as certain roads are controlled and policed by the state, while others fall under the local municipality.

  • Local Roads: Any roadway maintained by the county, township, town, borough, or private owner who owns the land it presides over.
  • State Highway (Interstate): Any highway that states maintain that runs through multiple states. These are designated by maps and signs marked with red, white, and blue shield-shaped signs.
  • State Highway (Other): Any highway the state maintains that doesn’t run between states. Many of these are designated with a black and white keystone-shaped sign.
  • Turnpike: These are the toll roads that are part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike system and are maintained by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

If You or a Loved One is Injured in a Car Accident, Contact the Injury Attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.

One car accident is enough to change someone’s future forever. If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident or has suffered significant property damage, you shouldn’t be the one paying for it. The first thing you should do–after making sure you are physically alright and being treated for injuries–is prepare your police statement. Even if you or a loved one is taken to a hospital, a serious accident may necessitate police follow-up, and the language they use will affect your receiving damages and insurance payouts.

Making sure you are prepared for the off-chance you’re in a car accident can be the difference between affording your recovery and not. What kind of accident you’re in can affect an insurance payout and the severity of a damages payout. Make sure you help yourself as much as possible.

If you have questions or need support, our experienced injury attorneys are here to listen to and support you. Contact us today.

Peter Olszewski
Peter Olszewski

Peter Paul Olszewski, Jr., a shareholder and managing partner at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., brings 37 years of litigation experience. He is a renowned trial lawyer in Pennsylvania, specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury, and criminal defense. Peter's notable achievements include securing multi-million-dollar verdicts and serving as District Attorney and Judge. He is committed to community involvement and is actively engaged in various legal associations.
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