One of the most common terms used in describing a car or bicycle crash, pedestrian collision or fall is that it was an accident. Most of us do it out of habit or without thinking. We even include it in our web content because it’s such a common search term. But when an insurance defense lawyer uses it they want to convey the idea “no one was to blame” or “it was an act of God.” They’re aware it’s a subtle way of giving a jury permission to not assign fault or responsibility to the driver whose driving choices were responsible for causing the crash.
There is a significant movement nationally by safety advocates as well as state and local governments to stop labeling automobile crashes as “accidents.” This was well described by a recent New York Times article. Safety officials are alarmed that vehicle crashes and deaths went up dramatically in 2015. Nationally, 38,000 people died last year.
Crashes are the result of a driver’s behavior: failing to watch the road, driving while distracted, speeding, or not looking before turning into another’s path. Officials hope moving away from the use of the word “accident” will overcome common apathy by the public to the grave danger vehicle crashes represent.
They have gained significant momentum. The state of Nevada recently mandated use of the term “crash” replacing “accident” in many sections of its motor vehicle laws. Likewise, New York City, San Francisco and 28 state departments of motor vehicles have made similar changes. The Associated Press in April urged its reporters to use the word crash when reporting a motor vehicle collision where negligence was alleged or proven.
One writer referred to the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of accident as “an unexpected happening... not due to any fault on behalf of the person injured.”
Lawyers representing injured clients have argued this for years. I’m glad to see this movement making progress.
Source: New York Times “It’s No Accident: Advocates Want to Speak of Car ‘Crashes’ Instead”
by Matt Ritchtel, May 22, 2016.