Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
A not-for-profit organisation representing injured people

Blog: Accident and negligence: what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Year: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011

Accident and negligence: what’s the difference and why does it matter?
Neil McKinley | 02 Aug 2021

During this Injury Prevention Week (August 2-6) we are highlighting the difference between accident and negligence. The two are often misconstrued as having the same cause and definition, when actually, this isn’t the case at all. It’s not unusual, for example, to read that someone has been awarded damages after an ‘accident’, which is highly misleading.

How the law applies when a person has been injured by someone else depends upon whether the injury was an accident, or caused by negligence. This is why it is so important that we all have the correct understanding of what the two actually mean, and how we can avoid needless injury to ourselves, and those around us.

So, what’s the difference between the two? To put it simply – an accident is an incident which no-one could have reasonably foreseen taking place. This is no-one's ‘fault’, and no action can be taken against you. If your injury is a genuine accident, essentially, that’s all it is. An accident. They happen every day. No-one can be held responsible for any harm caused.

Negligence is the complete opposite. This is doing something, or failing to do something, that could cause injury to others. An example would be a restaurant not stating, or even being aware, that a particular dish on its menu may contain nuts. All restaurants have a duty of care to their customers and failing to make it clear that a dish may contain nuts would be a complete disregard for that duty of care, risking serious injury or worse.

Of course, no-one wants this, and it can, and should, be prevented at all costs. When someone is negligent, the law allows the injured person to claim damages for financial losses, and also pain and suffering – and rightly so, because the harm and suffering caused by negligence can be life-changing. In some cases, it completely strips people of the independence they once had. This can have a profound and long-term impact on families’ everyday lives.

The purpose of Injury Prevention Week is to help effect positive change in reducing the number of needless injuries – it’s much easier to avoid negligence if we have a real understanding of what it is.

Past blog entries

Patient safety problems risk waning public confidence in the NHS , 20 May 2021
Consumers will not benefit from Do-it-Yourself whiplash reforms, 28 Jan 2021
Effects of a change in the discount rate: what happens when a review is expected? , 16 Dec 2020
Three per cent drop in premiums does not reflect massive insurer savings, 09 Nov 2020
What help is out there for families when someone is injured?, 02 Nov 2020
Blindly heading into the unknown for injured people?, 09 Dec 2019
Lessons in looking after one another , 18 Nov 2019
‘Fake claims’ or ‘fake news’?, 06 Nov 2019

About this blog

Neil McKinley

Neil McKinley is APIL's president. He has worked in personal injury for over 30 years, handing a wide ranging caseload covering RTA’s, accidents at work, industrial disease, and serious injury cases.