Don’t Call It An Accident!
Ryan Zavodnick | July 7, 2016 | Car Accidents
You have instructed your child not to run up and down the stairs in your home. You have given warnings each and every time he has done so, explaining the reasons behind what likely seems like a arbitrary rule to your child. Then one day when you are not close enough to stop it your son sprints down the stairs like he is trying to qualify for the olympics.
What your child was unaware of at the time he began his sprint is that his younger sibling was on her way up the stairs at the same time. He doesn’t see her because he is going too fast. CRASH! Thankfully, your younger child is not seriously hurt. Your son, in tears, after having realized that he injured his sister and hearing her cry, repeats over and over, “It was an accident.”
So was it?Well, it depends on how one defines an accident. Sure, your son did not intend to injure your daughter, so the consequence was certainly an accident if you will. However, your son’s actions before the collision were certainly not an accident.
He intentionally ran down the stairs, knowingly disregarding the instructions he had been given numerous times. So perhaps this collision is better explained as intentional conduct with unintended consequences. Chalking it up to an accident makes it sound like it couldn’t have been avoided, and, in this instance, had your son chosen to simply walk down the stairs there would not have been a collision.
Don’t Call Your Car Crash A Car Accident!
So don’t call it an accident. At least that is what safety advocates across the country are saying when it comes to car crashes, which are on the rise. In response, more and more cities across the country are passing legislation prohibiting the use of the word “accident” when referring to car crashes and collisions between vehicles.
The National Safety Council estimates that deadly crashes rose by nearly 8 percent in 2015, killing roughly 38,000 people. Nearly all crashes result from driver behavior, while only 6 percent or so result from vehicle malfunctions, weather, and other factors. So, just as we should not refer to the incident involving your son running down the stairs in the example above as an accident, we should not refer to car crashes and collisions as car accidents, since they too result from intentional decisions made that result in unintended consequences.
You chose to speed, to text while driving, to drink while driving, to disregard traffic signals, etc. If one of those choices results in your car crashing into another car and causing injuries, why should we call it an accident?
On January 1, 2016 the state of Nevada passed a law requiring the word “crash” to be substituted for the word “accident” wherever the word “accident” was used in state laws. No longer will car accidents be referred to as such, instead, they will be referred to as car crashes. New York city passed similar legislation a few years ago.
Even the associated press has changes its policy. Now, when negligence is claimed or proven in a crash, reporters are advised to avoid the word accident, which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible according to the A.P.
Why Should You Care Whether I Call It A Car Accident Or Car Crash?
So what is the big deal anyway? Who cares whether we call it a car accident or a car crash, or whether we refer to anything else as an accident or not? Well, as Philadelphia personal injury lawyers, all too often we are presented with clients who have sustained injuries that could have been avoided had the other driver, individual or business simply been more careful and chosen to follow known safety rules.
Yet, when we conduct depositions or appear in court for trial, the defendants in our cases maintain that it was just an accident. As in, oh well, I know I was going 85 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. zone but I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Or, I know I was paying more attention to the texts I was receiving on my cell phone than I was to the road when I ran my car into yours, but I didn’t mean to, it was just an accident.
Unfortunately, we as a society, and particularly as jurors, too often let defendants off the hook for their intentionally dangerous conduct which results in injuries. You see, if you allow someone to think something was an accident, then you are saying that it couldn’t have been avoided. And if it couldn’t have been avoided by acting differently, then why bother to change your conduct in the future-accidents happen right?
So now you have the same person who was driving 85 m.p.h. and caused a crash doing the same exact thing as soon as the case is over because hey, it wasn’t my fault, it was just an accident right?