An accident is something going wrong unexpectedly. Physical examples include an unavoidable collision (including a person or object falling by chance). The term is also loosely applied to mean any undesirable outcome, even if it could have been avoided, such as getting injured by touching something sharp, hot, electrically live, ingesting poisons, or other injuries caused by lack of ordinary precautions.
Technically, "accidents" do not include incidents where someone is at fault, i.e., negligent: where someone fails to take reasonable precautions under the circumstances. If the results of such negligence were foreseeable, they were certainly not "accidental" at that level, and the negligent person can be held liable for damages and personal injuries. In an "accident", there is simply nobody to blame, because the event was unforeseeable or very unlikely. For example, a pharmacist negligently mixes the wrong chemicals and mislabels them for sale; a person ingesting the chemicals according to the label instructions has been "accidentally" poisoned, but the pharmacist's mistake was not accidental — it was negligent.
A common misconception is that a gun can "go off" accidentally, where in truth, such gun accidents are extremely rare. Most gun injuries are caused when someone puts a bullet into the gun, points it at someone and pulls the trigger — a series of intentional acts that usually result in the expected outcome: an injury. A defective gun that goes off when dropped could qualify as being "accidental", however, one would still have to examine the cause for the gun being intentionally loaded and being handled carelessly.
Often accidents are investigated so that we can learn how to avoid them in the future. This is sometimes called root cause analysis, but does not generally apply to accidents that cannot be predicted with any certainty. For example, a root cause of a purely random incident may never be identified, and thus future similar accidents remain "accidental."
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An accident at work is defined as an external, sudden, unexpected, unintended, and violent event, during the execution of work or arising out of it, which causes damage to the health of or loss of the life of the employee (the insured).
For qualification as an accident at work to apply, there must be a causal relationship (direct or indirect relationship of cause and effect) between the violent event and the work. Only if the accident is due to "wilful misrepresentation" on the part of the employer or the employer's appointed representative is the employer under an obligation to compensate the victim. Under U.S. law, injured workers are often compensated according to the type of injury, rather than permitting them to sue the employer for the actual damages.
There is a significant proportion of work accidents occurring in the merchant marine.
A bicycle accident, an incident in which a bicycle ride goes wrong, can result in injury to the rider or another person in their path, and damage to the bicycle or nearby objects. In 1842, an accident occurred that has been described as the earliest bicycle accident. Kirkpatrick McMillan, the inventor of the velocipede (an early bicycle), rode his new invention for 40 miles (64 km) from his home to Glasgow. On his approach to the city, crowds gathered on the road and, unfortunately, Kirkpatrick collided with a young girl.
Although she was only slightly injured, he was subsequently charged with causing the first-ever bicycle accident. The judge could not believe Kirkpatrick had travelled the 40 miles to Glasgow in only five hours, but after much explaining, he was allowed to return home.
- Sailing ship accidents
- Car accident
- List of nuclear accidents
- "Kirkpatrick McMillan and the Bicycle" – an opinion article from the Plainview Herald, by Robert R. McMillan, dated Friday, June 18, 1999
- Accident at Work Compensation. A free guide to workplace accidents and related compensation claims.
- Tests for Reducing Work Accidents
- Community database on Accidents on the Roads in Europe (CARE)