Every time I see a plaintiffs’ lawyer use the word “accident” to describe a car crash, I picture a defense lawyer saying to a jury, “It was just an accident, even the plaintiff’s lawyer says so!”
The most common definitions of “accident” are, according to my iPhone:
1. an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
2. an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.
Did you see anything in those definitions about negligence or fault? When we represent an injured client, do our clients (and us) make any money if there is not negligence and fault? No, we don’t, because liability only exists when there is negligence and fault.
An “accident” is generally understood to be something that happens by chance, without fault or control. “Negligence” is when someone acts without due care, skill, attention and foresight. By allowing (and actually perpetuating) the astonishingly misleading use of the word “accident” in trials, negotiations and even in your advertising and business cards, you are doing your clients and your fellow trial lawyers a disservice
The fender-bender was a crash, not an accident.
We handle negligence cases and car/motorcycle crashes, not accident cases. I recently heard a group of lawyers use the term “accident cases” 13 times in 5 minutes, and I found it disheartening that not one of them realized the inaccuracy of the term.
And, if you think that you only use the term among other lawyers and would never say it in court or to an adjuster, you are absolutely wrong. It is a habit, and you either change that habit or it’s something you will do repeatedly and unconsciously.