Dictionaries usually define “accident” as something like “an event that causes injury or damage and occurs by chance.” “Every time that anybody is injured it is commonly spoken of as “an accident,” but this is not actually true, because an accident really means injury due to some cause that could not have been foreseen or due to failure to take known precautions.”1
So it’s really not “chance” that causes most such events. It’s carelessness. Almost all of these situations could have been prevented had reasonable care been exercised. Such a failure to use reasonable care is defined as “negligence.”
Oregon law says that a person’s conduct is negligent if that person fails to use “the degree of care and judgment used by reasonably careful people in the management of their own affairs to avoid harming themselves or others.”2 Put more simply, what is required in nearly every situation is “reasonable care to avoid harming others.” A person fails to use reasonable care when he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do, or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under similar circumstances. “For example, if . . . while walking along the beach, [a person] finds one of those long strings of kelp which resembles a bullwhip, picks it up and in play cracks it like a whip, he will most certainly be found to have been negligent toward the bystander whose eye is plucked from his head by the act even though no special relationship exists between the two.”3
When reasonable care is not used, and as a result, another person is injured, there may be a legal right to receive compensation for the harm. This means that an “accident lawyer” who helps an injured person do so is really a “negligence lawyer.” If there is no negligence, there is likely no case. But how do you know whether an “accident” really was the foreseeable result of a failure to use reasonable care? Should you know the answer before calling an accident attorney?
Fortunately, you don’t need to know that negligence caused harm before talking with most personal injury lawyers about a potential case. If someone else’s carelessness was responsible, the facts will indicate so. If your case is accepted, then your attorney’s work will include a thorough investigation of those facts to gather evidence proving negligence. So if you’ve been hurt and you even suspect that someone else was at fault, call for an initial consultation at no cost to you.
1. Charles R. Allen, The Foreman and His Job 253.
2. Or. Uniform Civil Jury Instruction 20.02.
2. Kirby v. Sonville, 286 Or. 339, 345, 594 P.2d 818 (1979).