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Words matter

October 15, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Police now being trained to use word “collision” instead of “accident”

car accident scene

Words matter.

I was recently taking the deposition of an investigating police officer and it made me think of how we commonly refer to car accidents as “accidents.”

Labeling most of the motor vehicle collision cases that I see as an attorney as an “accident” has always been troubling to me. The word “accident” implies there’s no responsibility for it. The word accident implies therefore, there should be no accountability when someone is hurt.

Using the word “accident” when one driver is texting on his cell phone and plows into another driver who is stopped in traffic ahead of him allows us to more easily brush these incidents under the rug. Using the word accident makes it easier for us to move on, when we should be looking for better solutions to protecting our families on the road today.

That brings me back to my recent deposition. I was told by the investigating highway patrolmen that many police officers are now being trained to use the word “collision” instead of “accident” for this reason.

It reminded me of another client who was a retired Navy Commander. My client told me that in the Navy, they deliberately use the word “mishap” rather than “accident” in an effort to increase accountability and responsibility.

Accidents happen.

Most car “accidents” do not.

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