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Was It an Accident or On Purpose? No. It Was Something Else

You've heard it said by kids. You've heard it said by adults.

"I didn't do it on purpose. It was an accident."

But if something undesirable occurs and the person doesn't do it on purpose, is it automatically an accident? No.

Consider an example.

George wants to go to the store to buy a gift for his wife. The catch is, their only car has bad brakes. They're near to not working at all. But he really wants to get his wife that present.

So he climbs into his car and heads to the store. Unexpectedly, a bicycle rider is in his path as he drives around a bend. He plows into the rider and hurts him severely.

Was it on purpose he did it? Well, obviously he had no desire to hurt the rider. He didn't even know there would be a rider.

Yet, an accident is something unforeseen, something one has great difficulty in avoiding. In fact, it may be entirely unavoidable.

In this instance, however, the so-called accident (for that is the term everyone will use) could have been avoided if the man had had properly working breaks.

It is not an accident, it is carelessness. The man cared too little (he was care-less) to get his car fixed beforehand.

The three possibilities - for there are three - are

1. On purpose

2. Accident

3. Carelessness

Image Credit » Pixabay

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MegL wrote on November 29, 2017, 3:06 AM

That road traffic collision (RTC) would have resulted in a police prosecution in the UK. It is an offence to drive a car that is not in roadworthy condition. His car was obviously not in roadworthy condition (and even worse, he knew it). I would say he did it on purpose, though I can see your point of calling it careless. He would of course deny it because he had no intention of crashing or injuring someone. But if that cyclist dies, I would feel he would be guilty of involuntary manslaughter (killing someone without the intention of doing so). It used to be that people escaped custodial sentences for killing someone while driving drunk, because "they didn't know what they were doing". They did, however know that they had a car with them when they set out for a drink. Nowadays, of course, it is an offence in the UK to drive with an alcohol limit above a certain level (different in different parts of the UK). I agree that accidents can happen. The road traffic authorities do not agree because they call them RTCs but sometimes, things happen that you do not expect. I would call it an accident if for instance, the cyclist wobbled in front of him due to a sudden and unexpected gust of wind. That's why I always give cyclist 6 feet of room when passing. That came from my mother. She said that she was told this by her driving instructor - give them as much room to the side as you would if burying them - 6 feet! That has stuck in my head for over 50 years, since I started driving.

VinceSummers wrote on November 29, 2017, 7:28 AM

Yes, genuine accidents can and do occur, though they are rare. A break pedal might snap. A tire steel belt break destroying a tire. There are a number of possibilities. But the majority of accidents, possibly, if not only automotive accidents are considered, are because of the failure to exercise reasonable care for whatever reason.

lookatdesktop wrote on November 29, 2017, 3:52 PM

no. 3 but he probably said it was an accident. Axe E Dent.

MegL wrote on November 29, 2017, 4:20 PM

There was a very interesting book written in about 1930 about accidents by W H Heinrich, who was in the insurance industry in the USA. He studied all the accidents he heard about and had some very interesting ideas about causes and statistics. He developed "Heinrich's Law", 1:30:300 (Not quite those numbers but close). It said you had 300 minor accidents, for 30 serious accidents for 1 death. If you look at road traffic collision statistics, you will see that they are close to that. The book is interesting to read (IMO). I think he also developed the domino theory of accidents but not sure on that.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 4, 2017, 3:50 PM

That is an important distinction to make. Although we may not intend to do a thing, the law distinguishes between events that are unexpected and those that we should have known could occur. If we cause harm by our carelessness, we are technically and legally liable.

Secre wrote on December 5, 2017, 4:55 AM

That's why manslaughter exists; I killed him but I didn't mean to do it but it could have been prevented had I not been an idiot. Another phrase would be negligence.

VinceSummers wrote on December 5, 2017, 7:44 AM

I suspect far too often, what is actually intended killing is palmed off as manslaughter. I do understand the word negligence. And it's not the worst of words. But it is less to the point than the word careless, I think. Kind of a synonym that doesn't quite make it.

Secre wrote on December 5, 2017, 7:54 AM

Negligent homicide is one of my favourites; you didn't mean to kill him but you to your gross incompetence you did and that has to stand for something!