Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are a leading cause of death and injury in Alberta. In 2019 (the most recent yearly statistics reported by the Alberta government), there were 11,738 injuries and 215 fatalities caused by MVAs.

Motor vehicle accidents can be a confusing and traumatic experience. There are a lot of terms and legal processes that can be difficult to understand. To help you navigate this process, we have created a two-part glossary of common terms related to motor vehicle accidents. With this glossary, you’ll have a better understanding of the process and the terminology you’ll encounter.

In this blog, we set out definitions for common motor vehicle accident and insurance-related terminology. In Part II, we summarize common types of motor vehicle accidents and accident-related injuries.

Motor Vehicle Accident-Related Terms

The following terms are commonly used in legal and technical literature regarding motor vehicle accidents.


A motor vehicle collision that results in property damage, injury, or death.


A designed restraint device that is inflated with air or other gas in order to protect occupants of a vehicle from serious injury during a collision.

Alcohol-Related Collision

A motor vehicle collision that is caused by a driver who is impaired by alcohol.


A system of components that slows or stops a vehicle.


A crash involving two or more vehicles.


A death that occurs as a result of a motor vehicle collision.


A public road that is designed and built for vehicles to travel at high speeds.


Physical or psychological harm caused by an accident.

Motor Vehicle

As per Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, a motor vehicle is a vehicle propelled by any power other than muscular power or a moped. This definition does not include a bicycle, power bicycle, aircraft, implement of husbandry, or a motor vehicle that only runs on rails.


A person who is riding in a vehicle but is not the driver.


A person who is travelling by foot or in/on a mobility aid, specifically in an area where vehicles (such as cars, trucks, or bicycles) are present.


A device that is worn by vehicle occupants to help prevent them from being ejected from the vehicle during a collision or accident.

MVA Insurance Terminology

Below is a list of terms related to motor vehicle insurance. Knowing these terms may help you better understand your legal rights and options when dealing with insurance companies.

Accident Benefits

These are the benefits paid to an insured person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who was at fault.

At-Fault Determination

This is the determination of who is responsible for an accident.

At-Fault Driver

The driver who is responsible for causing an accident.


A demand for compensation. You may make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Claims Adjuster

The person who will determine how much your insurance company will pay you for your damages.


Compensation for losses. You may be entitled to damages in the form of special and general damages.

  • Special Damages: Payment for financial loss. An example would be loss of income if you were unable to work because of an injury caused by someone else’s negligence.
  • General Damages: These are not financial losses but rather compensation for pain and suffering or other non-economic losses.


The amount of money that you pay towards the cost of a repair or claim.

Direct Compensation for Property Damage (DCPD)

Direct Compensation for Property Damage coverage is mandatory for all automobile insurance policies in Alberta. DCPD applies when property damage is caused by a collision in which the insured is not at fault. In such situations, the insured’s own insurer must pay to repair any damage sustained to the vehicle.


The person who operates a motor vehicle.


An amendment or rider to your policy that modifies the coverage in some way.

Insurance Premium

The rate you pay for insurance coverage (monthly or annually).

Insured Motor Vehicle

As per Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, an insured motor vehicle is a motor vehicle, the owner of which is:

  • insured in respect of that motor vehicle by an insurer, or
  • is a corporation that has provided for financial responsibility in respect of that motor vehicle,

in accordance with the Insurance Act.


Legal responsibility for damages or injuries caused to another person.

Limit of Liability

The maximum amount of coverage available under your policy. Anything above this will be your responsibility to pay.

No-Fault Insurance

A type of insurance where each person’s own insurance company pays for their own damages and injuries, regardless of who was at fault.

Optional Coverage

Coverages that are available to be added on to a standard insurance policy but are not required by law.

Pain and Suffering

Physical and/or emotional anguish caused by an injury.


Your contract with your insurance company that outlines the terms and conditions of your coverage.

Property Damage

Damage to property, such as a vehicle, caused by a motor vehicle accident.


The likelihood that you will have to make a claim on your insurance policy.

Third-Party Liability

This is the coverage that protects you if you are sued by someone else.

Contact Cuming & Gillespie LLP, Leading Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyers in Calgary

The knowledgeable and compassionate personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP have more than 20 years of experience successfully representing injured clients in serious personal injury claims. We have recovered $175 million for our clients in the last decade. Our team is dedicated to helping you recover from your motor vehicle accident injuries so you can move on with your life. To schedule a free consultation, please call 403-571-0555 or contact us online.