"Is a Car Crash Ever an Accident?"

Robert Edwards Oct. 31, 2014

That was the title of a short article in today's Star Tribune (Metro section, B3). The article was written by a journalist who had written an article which appeared in the paper last week about this 11-year-old boy who was struck by a car as he crossed a busy St. Paul Street on his way to school. The first vehicle in line saw the little boy crossing the street and slowed so that he could cross safely. The driver behind that vehicle went around that vehicle on the left-hand side and hit the little boy who suffered a traumatic brain injury and still resides in the hospital.

The journalist called that an "accident" and this prompted a twitter exchange between her and her reader on whether or not it would be proper to refer to this sort of thing as an "accident" because that connotes that this was some sort of the inevitable thing which could not have been prevented in the exercise of reasonable care. That is, of course, total nonsense.

Virtually every single car crash is the result of a poor choice or a series of poor choices made by a driver.Most recently the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has moved away from using the word "accident" and now would like to refer to those as "crashes". A spokesman for the DPS is quoted in the article as saying: "Accident implies that what occurs is random and there is no way anyone could have prevented it,". He went on to say that there are choices we can make when we are behind the wheel - such as driving the speed limit and avoiding distractions like texting - which can help prevent tragedy.

I would also add the following. Jury trials in personal injury cases arising out of car accidents serve at least two purposes, the first being to do the best we can, as a society, to compensate the injured person for what has been taken from them. The second thing is to deter conduct like this in the future, not only by the defendant or defendants in the case, but by other drivers as well. Today's small personal injury case may very well prevent tomorrow's drunk driving tragedy.