The War on Words-Crash vs. Accident

As the father of a toddler, I constantly hear my son claim intentional acts were an "accident."   My wife and I work hard to explain that throwing sand at another kid is not an "accident" and there is not an excuse for that type of behavior.  I think most parents raise their kids the same way. 

However, at some point in our lives things change.   Employees constantly claim that a screw up was an "accident" or "wasn't on purpose"' so that should mitigate the damages they caused.  As a prosecutor I would hear defendants that injure a person in a DUII crash say "it was an accident."  On the show "Cheaters" (yes I watched it) people would be caught being unfaithful to their loved ones.  My favorite excuse was, you guessed it, "It was an accident, I never meant for it to  go this far."  You have to wonder why people are manipulating the word accident.

 It turns out that the word accident has been manipulated by corporation for over a Century.  Much like the brand "Kleenex" is synonymous with the word "tissue", "accident" has become synonymous with a preventable events, such as a "crash" or " human error".  

As a personal injury lawyer, this makes things a little more difficult for my clients in court.  This is due to the fact that the jurors have been pre-conditioned into thinking the bad driver that crashed into my client caused an "accident."  The defense lawyers/insurance lawyers imply because their client did not intend to run the red light they shouldn't have to pay the full amount of the damages they caused.  Many jurors agree, because that has been the way of thinking for decades.     

It turns out there has been a silent war to replace words involving a predictable event with the word "accident."  The New York Times recently wrote an article focusing on the debate between using the word "crash" vs. "accident."  According to the article, corporations used the word "accident" in their safety campaigns to attempt to absolve themselves of liability.   Car manufacturers used the word in the 1920's to absolve themselves of liability for manufacturing defects.  The word "accident" eventually was forced into our current lexicon by insurance companies and has become synonymous with the word "crash"

Here in Oregon, the word accident has replaced the word crash in our laws.  For example, ORS 811.720 notes "When an Accident must be reported to the department of transportation."   ORS 811.745, notes "When an Accident must be reported to  a police officer or law enforcement agency."  ORS 811.725 describes the penalty for "failing to report an accident." 

Is this a big deal?  I believe it is.  The word crash connotes what actually happens when a vehicle collides with something.  The word crash describes the noise, the twisted metal, the broken glass, and the twisted plastic.  It also better describes the crash was caused by human error.  We need to start taking accountability for our actions like we were taught to do.  Claiming things were an accident that were preventable events caused by human error contradicts everything we expect of our kids. 

If you have been involved in a car crash or if you prefer, car "accident," please call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Ross Law LLC will provide a free personal injury consultation to discuss your Oregon car crash.   Please remember the law is constantly changing and the laws cited above may change in the future.