Why We Don’t Use the Word “Accident” in Personal Injury Cases

by | Oct 30, 2023 | Personal Injury | 0 comments

What do you call it when two cars are driving down the road, and one of them collides with the other car? Colloquially, we refer to that as an ACCIDENT. Car accidents, snowmobiling accidents, boating accidents, etc. If you notice, on the Johnson Livingston website, it says the word accident in a lot of places, and we do that so people in our community can find us online and can get the help and support they need. But really in personal injury cases these are crashes, incidents, wrecks, anything but an actual accident, because misbehavior, or breaking the law is actually negligence. 

Can accidents happen? Yes, but if it could have been prevented by being safer and following the safety rules, then it’s not an accident.

So why do we still use the word “accident” if it’s not actually an accident? As a culture, we refer to these situations as “accidents.” But very rarely are they truly accidents. Let’s look deeper at why a car accident is very rarely that. 

Discovering Negligence

When it comes to Personal Injury Law, it’s our job to prove negligence in a case. That could be someone being negligent because they were texting and driving, a company was negligent because they didn’t change out the carbon-monoxide alarms in their hotel rooms, or an equipment company was negligent in their production of a product that exploded. The law defines negligence as a “failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.”

For something to be a true accident, negligence can’t be proven. If everyone was driving the speed limit, the apartment complex was following code on de-icing their sidewalks in the wintertime, and even when everyone does use reasonable care, cars can still collide and people can still slip and fall on the ice. Do cases like that happen? Yes. Do cases like that happen often? No. No they do not. 

Defining Accident VS Incident 

As a matter of public safety, we all make the commitment when we get on the road to keep ourselves and others safe. When we choose to text while driving or not follow the speed limit, we put ourselves and others at risk. It is a choice, and when we choose these things, that means that there is a cause for a crash. You are acting with negligence when you text and drive, when you drive too fast, when you pass cars on the right, etc. And if a collision occurs, it’s not an “accident.” An accident is, after all, “an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured.”

Does that mean that people who text and drive are trying to hurt other people? Not at all, but when you choose something that puts yourself and others at risk on the road, you aren’t faultless if you cause a wreck or crash. So if a car accident isn’t actually an accident, what is it? At Johnson Livingston, we refer to these situations as incidents. 

Exploring the Difference

Accident and incident are words that tend to get used interchangeably as synonyms, but they have a distinct difference in definition. An accident occurs by chance, we don’t have any say in if it happens or not, but an incident is “something dependent on or subordinate to something else of greater or principal importance.” So when you pick up your phone to text and you hit another car on the road, the end result is an incident, a direct consequence of distracted driving. 

In the legal world of personal injury, as professionals, we acknowledge that accidents are rarely, if ever, true accidents. And when we refer to these collisions or harmful events as “accidents”, it’s really an incident, caused by someone acting negligently. There’s nothing accidental about it. Perhaps there was an unintended result, but intention never overrides outcomes, especially when these outcomes involve the injury of another person or party. 

If you or someone you know has been involved in an “accident”, from a car crash to a dog bite, a hit and run to carbon monoxide poisoning, and for everything in between, Johnson Livingston would like to help. Whether your case is big or small, we’re here to answer your questions, and prove that your accident was really an incident, and that someone was at fault and being negligent. Schedule your free consultation today by phone to (801) 948-9670 or online at johnsonlivingston.com.


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