Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Accident Definition:

An unlooked for mishap or occurrence.

Related Terms: Act of God, Actus Dei Nemini Facit Injuriam

The traditional common law definition comes from the oft-cited words in Fenton v. Thorley:

"The word accident is not a technical legal term with a clearly defined meaning. Speaking generally, but with reference to legal liabilities, an accident means any unintended and unexpected occurrence which produces hurt or loss.

"But it is often used to denote any unintended and unexpected loss or hurt apart from its cause; and if the cause is not known the loss or hurt itself would certainly be called an accident. The word accident is also often used to denote both the cause and the effect, no attempt being made to discriminate between them."

Welford wrote:

"The word accident involves the idea of something fortuitous and unexpected, as opposed to something proceeding from natural causes; and injury caused by accident is to be regarded as the antithesis to bodily infirmity caused by disease in the ordinary course of events."

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