By Hon. (Ret.) Ken E. Adair
Don’t Call Them Auto Accidents
Video Transcribed: Hi, my name is Ken Adair. I’m a people’s lawyer and I’m a retired judge, and I want to talk to you again about civil voir dire. And in every case, every personal injury case, whether it’s industrial or whether it’s product liability, whether it’s an auto collision case… And don’t ever call them auto accidents. I’ve gotten the word motor vehicle accident, auto accident, out of my vernacular. It doesn’t exist there. There’s no such thing as an accident.
But when I do voir dire, one of the things I ask the jurors, “How many have ever worked in a factory environment of any kind or a big building in a manufacturing process?”
And I ask the jurors, “Have any of you ever seen a big banner or sign in a big manufacturing facility that says safety is no accident?” And I’ve never had a jury panel… It’ll happen someday, but I’ve never had a jury panel where nobody raised their hand.
And I ask them, “What does that mean to you? Safety is no accident.” And they say, “Well if you follow the rules, nobody gets hurt.” I’m like, “Nobody?” “Yeah, nobody gets hurt. If everybody follows the rules, nobody gets hurt.”
“Well, what if a piece of equipment malfunctions?” “Well, if the maintenance is done on it right and the people are doing the maintenance like they’re supposed to, and they’re inspecting it like they’re supposed to… They’re doing the lockouts on the electrical panels like they’re supposed to. They’re going to the grease joints and lubricating the grease joints like they’re supposed to. Things don’t fail. Things are replaced when they’ve outlived their usefulness.
Nobody’s ever going to get hurt. And these factories will have the number of days since the last lost-time work accident. But you want the jury to understand that safety is no accident.
If every driver does their job and follows the rules 100% of the time… And I’m going to give you an exception. This will come up in a later video I do… Unless the bridge on I-40 at Webbers Falls in eastern Oklahoma collapses unexpectedly, if everybody does their job, nobody’s going to get hurt.
Now there was negligence there, but it wasn’t on any of the drivers. None of the drivers caused that accident. Some of the people basically… If you look at it and you took it literally… We have an assured clear distance rule in the state of Oklahoma, which means you keep a distance. You don’t drive faster than what you can see ahead of you.
And everybody that plunged into the river that day and lost their life, drove beyond their assured clear distance, which helps define that particular element that that’s not what it really means. It means something a little bit different.
You’re not required to anticipate the absolute impossible, unexpected thing in the middle of the road. But if everybody does their job, if everybody keeps a lookout, everybody watches their speed… Just because it’s within the speed limit, doesn’t mean it’s careful.
If everybody pays close attention. They’re not messing with their phone. They’re not putting on their makeup while they drive and texting and driving, or they’re not fiddling with the CD player or picking something up off the floor of their car.
If you keep a safe distance. If you’re not weaving in and out of traffic. I don’t like to tailgate. I don’t like being tailgated. And I hate it when somebody shifts in front of me and I’m not tailgating.
And so now, I got to back off further because I don’t want to tailgate the guy in front of me now, that I wasn’t tailgating before, but now that this person has gone in front of me. So, I don’t like to tailgate or be tailgated.
So, I work really hard to make sure that I’m not in a position where I’m going to slam into somebody from behind, even if they just whip in front of me. I’m going to back off. And I do that because I don’t want to be in a car wreck and I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to hurt somebody else.
If everybody does that, nobody gets hurt. So, voir dire the jury about safety is no accident. You don’t have to go into all the stuff I’m just talking about, but you go into that concept.
Let them talk about it. Let the jurors talk about why safety is no accident. And hereafter a while, I’m going to talk about a contract. I tried every personal injury case I’ve ever tried, as a contract case. And I’ll talk more about that later.
I hope this has been a little bit helpful. Remember, safety is no accident. Quit calling these car accidents. Quit calling them motor vehicle accidents. They’re collisions, right? They are wrecks and collisions. They are not accidents.
Somebody affirmatively did something or affirmatively made a decision not to do something they were supposed to do. Otherwise, this wouldn’t happen. It’s just a tick away from an intentional tort, even the accidental ones.
So, I hope this has been helpful. Look forward to talking to you some more. This has been trial attorney Ken Adair. If you are looking for co-counsel services or an experienced jury consultant, visit trial.win.