multiple car collision

The Difference Between a Minor and Major Car Accident

February 27, 2024

When it comes to car accidents, it’s important to understand the difference between a serious road incident and something more minor. After all, a major car accident can be life-changing - if not life-threatening - and can have serious implications both for your physical health as well as your finances. But how do we distinguish between the two? In the following blog post, we’re going to delve into these distinctions, exploring some key factors that shape these incidents and their implications on individuals involved. Let’s take a closer look.

What Counts As A Minor Car Accident?

Generally speaking, minor car accidents can be characterised by incurring limited damage to your vehicle, and little-to-no damage (aka injuries) to the occupants. Typically, these incidents often involve low-speed collisions, such as fender benders in parking lots or minor rear-end accidents at stop signs; the key hallmark of a minor accident like this is that it usually results in nothing more cosmetic damage to the car, such as scratches or small dents, without affecting the vehicle's structural integrity or safety features. In short, your car nor your body won’t need major work or rehabilitation.

What Counts As A Major Car Accident?

In contrast, major car accidents tend to involve significant damage to the vehicles involved and serious injuries or fatalities: these accidents can occur at high speeds and often involve multiple vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists. Major accidents can also end up leading to extensive vehicle damage, which can often become costly repairs or result in total losses (aka the car is considered unfit for the road and can’t be repaired).

Similarly, injuries sustained in a major accident also tend to be more severe, ranging from fractures and burns to traumatic brain injuries, necessitating emergency medical attention and long-term rehabilitation. If a death occurs as a result of a car accident, it’s also considered a major accident by default - even if the crash occured at low speed.

What Causes Minor Car Accidents?

two drivers arguing

When it comes to minor car accidents, several factors contribute to their occurrence; this can include everything from low-speed impacts and driver distraction, to minor miscalculations in braking or steering. The nature of less serious incidents often means they can be resolved relatively swiftly, with vehicle repairs and minor medical treatments addressing the immediate consequences. However, even minor accidents require prompt and proper documentation to support insurance claims and ensure accountability, which is why it can be helpful to work with a solicitor who specialises in road accident claims.

What Causes Major Car Accidents?

As you’ve likely already guessed, most major car accidents occur due to at least one of the following factors: driving at dangerously high speeds, reckless driving, adverse weather conditions, or the involvement of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. These accidents are more complex due to the severity of injuries, the extent of vehicle damage, and the potential for legal disputes over liability and compensation. The aftermath of a major accident can be a prolonged process involving extensive medical treatment, significant vehicle repair or replacement, and comprehensive claim investigations.

Legal and Insurance Implications

So, what does the law have to say when it comes to the distinction between minor and major accidents? Put simply, the legal and insurance implications can differ drastically based on the severity of the accident. For minor accidents, insurance claims may be straightforward, involving property damage and minor medical expenses, and you might be able to claim for a car accident easily. However, the process becomes more complex with major accidents, especially when serious injuries or fatalities occur.

For example, those seriously injured and unable to work might have to spend months chasing a compensation payout in order to make ends meet. Similarly, someone whose car has been deemed a “total loss” will need to claim on their insurance in order to cover the replacement costs - but first, they might have to gather extensive evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault. Generally speaking, the duration of claim investigations is almost directly influenced by how serious the car accident was.

Exploring The Psychological and Emotional Impact

Beyond the physical and financial implications, it’s also worth noting that car accidents carry psychological and emotional consequences. Minor accidents, while less severe, can still lead to anxiety and a loss of confidence on the road; and if you rely on your car to get to work or take your children to school, this can impact your quality of life.

Major accidents, given their more traumatic nature, can often result in long-term psychological effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and chronic anxiety both on and off the road. While they might not seem as life-changing as physical injuries, the emotional toll of a car accident can significantly impact an individual's quality of life and well-being, as well as their ability to work and make a living.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, differentiating between a minor and a major car accident comes down to two simple factors: the extent of damage to the vehicle, as well as the seriousness of the injuries sustained by the passengers. In both cases, it's important to document the accident thoroughly, report it to your insurance company, and seek legal advice if necessary. For major accidents, the complexity of legal proceedings often requires the expertise of a solicitor specialising in car accident claims - they’ll be able to help you navigate the intricacies of liability, compensation, and insurance laws, and ultimately maximise your chances of a successful claim.