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.