Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of accident


  1. Unfortunate esp. harmful event, caused unintentionally
  2. Event that is unexpected or without apparent cause

Definition of accident


    French accident, from Latin accīdēns, -dentis, present participle of accīdō ("to happen"); ad + cadere ("to fall").



accident (plural accidents)

  1. Literally, a befalling; an event that takes place without one's foresight or expectation; an undesigned, sudden, and unexpected event; often, an undesigned and unforeseen occurrence of an afflictive or unfortunate character

    to die by an accident

    * Shakespeare, Othello, I-iii:
    Of moving accidents by flood and field.

    * Trench:
    Thou cam'st not to thy place by accident: It is the very place God meant for thee.

  2. (grammar) A property attached to a word, but not essential to it, as gender, number, case.
  3. (military) An unplanned event that results in injury (including death) or occupational illness to person(s) and/or damage to property, exclusive of injury and/or damage caused by action of an enemy or hostile force.
  4. (heraldry) A point or mark which may be retained or omitted in a coat of arms
  5. (logic) A quality or attribute in distinction from the substance, as sweetness, softness.

    * 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Folio Society 2008, p. 171:
    If they went through their growth-crisis in other faiths and other countries, although the essence of the change would be the same [...], its accidents would be different.

  6. Any accidental property, fact, or relation; an accidental or nonessential

    Beauty is an accident.

    * J. P. Mahaffy:
    This accident, as I call it, of Athens being situated some miles from the sea.

  7. (obsolete) Unusual appearance or effect - Geoffrey Chaucer
  8. (law) casus; such unforeseen, extraordinary, extraneous interference as is out of the range of ordinary calculation.
  9. (transport) An unintended collision or event that causes damage or death.

    There was a huge accident on I5 involving 15 automobiles.
    My insurance is expenive now, mostly because of those two accidents.


  • (event that takes place without foresight or expectation): befalling, chance, contingency, casualty, mishap

Derived terms

  • accidental
  • freak accident

Related terms

  • accidentally

External links

  • accident in Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • accident in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
  • accident at OneLook Dictionary Search


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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