1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Accident

ACCIDENT (from Lat. accidere, to happen), a word of widely variant meanings, usually something fortuitous and unexpected; a happening out of the ordinary course of things. In the law of tort, it is defined as “an occurrence which is due neither to design nor to negligence”; in equity, as “such an unforeseen event, misfortune, loss, act or omission, as is not the result of any negligence or misconduct.” So, in criminal law, “an effect is said to be accidental when the act by which it is caused is not done with the intention of causing it, and when its occurrence as a consequence of such act is not so probable that a person of ordinary prudence ought, under the circumstances, to take reasonable precaution against it” (Stephen, Digest of Criminal Law, art. 210). The word may also have in law the more extended meaning of an unexpected occurrence, whether caused by any one’s negligence or not, as in the Fatal Accidents Act 1846, Notice of Accidents Act 1894. See also Contract, Criminal Law, Employers’ Liability, Insurance, Tort, &c.

In logic an “accident” is a quality which belongs to a subject but not as part of its essence (in Aristotelian language κατὰ συμβεβηκός, the scholastic per accidens). Essential attributes are necessarily, or causally, connected with the subject, e.g. the sum of the angles of a triangle; accidents are not deducible from the nature, or are not part of the necessary connotation, of the subject, e.g. the area of a triangle. It follows that increased knowledge, e.g. in chemistry, may show that what was thought to be an accident is really an essential attribute, or vice versa. It is very generally held that, in reality, there is no such thing as an accident, inasmuch as complete knowledge would establish a causal connexion for all attributes. An accident is thus merely an unexplained attribute. Accidents have been classed as (1) “inseparable,” i.e. universally present, though no causal connexion is established, and (2) “separable,” where the connexion is neither causally explained nor universal. Propositions expressing a relation between a subject and an accident are classed as “accidental,” “real” or “ampliative,” as opposed to “verbal” or “analytical,” which merely express a known connexion, e.g. between a subject and its connotation (q.v.).