Why do the laws that govern injury suits use the word “negligence”, not “accident”, when describing wrongs?
Once you get past the fact neither involves hurting someone on purpose, the two terms are as different as night and day. Negligence involves misconduct, accident does not. Using the word “accident’ would sugarcoat and undermine the seriousness of the process we call civil justice.
When an unskilled dancer steps on his dance partner’s toes, that’s an accident. When a kid learning to throw a baseball overthrows his dad’s glove and breaks a window, that’s an accident. It wouldn’t be fair to attribute serious fault to the clumsy dancer or the youngster who lacks ball control.
On the other hand, negligence involves conduct that rises to the level of an official wrong under the law, like tailgating or running a red light. It is the failure to act reasonably and safely in public to avoid harming others. It provides a reliable baseline expectation for public safety. It provides accountability when someone hurts others by cutting safety corners or acting carelessly. Accidents are going to happen and don’t involve misconduct. Negligence is wrong and is avoidable with minimal effort, which is not asking too much for the good of us all.
Without a justice system that provides remedies for negligence, our world would be a far more dangerous place. The American civil justice code did not choose the word negligence by accident.