Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The word accident is derived from the Latin verb accidere, signifying "fall upon, befall, happen, chance." In its most commonly accepted meaning, or in its ordinary or popular sense, the word may be defined as meaning: some sudden and unexpected event taking place without expectation, upon the instant, rather than something that continues, progresses or develops; something happening by chance; something unforeseen, unexpected, unusual, extraordinary, or phenomenal, taking place not according to the usual course of things or events, out of the range of ordinary calculations; that which exists or occurs abnormally, or an uncommon occurrence. The word may be employed as denoting a calamity, casualty, catastrophe, disaster, an undesirable or unfortunate happening; any unexpected personal injury resulting from any unlooked for mishap or occurrence; any unpleasant or unfortunate occurrence that causes injury, loss, suffering, or death; some untoward occurrence aside from the usual course of events. An event that takes place without one's foresight or expectation; an undesigned, sudden, and unexpected event.

Accident is not always a precise legal term. It may be used generally in reference to various types of mishaps, or it may be given a technical meaning that applies when used in a certain statute or kind of case. Where it is used in a general sense, no particular significance can be attached to it. Where it is precisely defined, as in a statute, that definition strictly controls any decision about whether a certain event covered by that statute was in fact an accident.

In its most limited sense, the word accident is used only for events that occur without the intervention of a human being. This kind of accident also may be called an act of God. It is an event that no person caused or could have prevented?such as a tornado, a tidal wave, or an ice storm. An accident insurance policy can by

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its terms be limited to coverage only for this type of accident. Damage by hail to a field of wheat may be considered such an accident.

A policy of insurance, by its very nature, covers only accidents and not intentionally caused injuries. That principle explains why courts will read some exceptions into any insurance policy, whether or not they are expressly stated. For example, life insurance generally will not compensate for a suicide, and ordinary automobile insurance will not cover damages sustained when the owner...

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