Personal injury lawyers are trained to use words to persuade. One key word that comes up in personal injury litigation again and again is the word “accident.” People are very used to talking about automobile accidents or car accidents. The problem is that accident implies that it is nobody’s fault. It allows the at fault driver to simply say, “Sorry, it was just an accident.” There is even a jury instruction that says the happening of an accident does not mean that the defendant is automatically responsible. This all feeds right into the “stuff happens” type defense.
I prefer to use the words crash, wreck or collision. Each of these words has a lot more impact than accident. Crash is the technical term used by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), which makes reports about crashes on the nation’s highways. Collision is a more accurate description of what happens when two vehicles meet. Wreck is probably the most ordinary, everyday word to describe the situation. This is especially true when a train is involved, as in many of the cases that we handle. A train wreck means something and implies the kind of huge property damage that comes when a railroad car engine weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds hits some other vehicle or person. I try to never use the word accident in my cases, and force myself to always say collision, wreck or crash in front of the jury.